In the summer of 2007 I fell in love. I was 26. My name is Rana.
I had just finished college and found my first job. As I think back on it now, it is hard to imagine how happy and content I once was.
I fell in love with a kind and gentle man from Denmark called Einar. He had had come to Syria to work on a government-funded infrastructure project. He was generous and funny and we had a son together in 2008. His name is Jarl. But 6 months after he was born I started to get sick. I was in hospital for 2 months. Einar decided that it would be a good idea if I were to leave the city and move back my hometown in the country where my family could take better care of me and the baby.
When I arrived in the local hospital my family visited me every day. They took Jarl and cared for him, because I could not. My baby spent the first few weeks being adored by his relatives. But after 3 weeks, the doctors in the hospital without my permission told my family that I was HIV positive.
Everything changed dramatically. Suddenly the visits stopped. They no longer sent me food or checked if I was being cared for properly – and my son had been discarded at the hospital entrance with the admitting nurse. My family didn’t even want to enter my room. They feared Jarl too, even though he is HIV negative. Unfortunately it is still a widely held belief, especially in the more rural areas, that HIV is highly infectious and will kill anyone who comes into contact with a HIV positive person. They also think that anyone with HIV must have been a drug addict or a sex worker. I believe this is what my family thought when they told me I must never contact them again.
My health eventually improved thanks to Einar paying for my medication and hospital care. I moved back to the city. But it was clear that our relationship had deteriorated in my absence and kind as Einar was at first, he could not see past my HIV. He left the country at the end of 2009. I never heard from him again and I do not know how I to find him. I had also lost my job. I had to turn to sex work to support myself and my baby.
Then in 2012 I met an Australian who fell in love with me and promised to take care of Jarl and me. I thought I would be happy…
Read Part II of Rana’s story tomorrow, Day 6
[all names and information that might identify any individual have been changed for confidentiality purposes]