Video: Empowering survivors and women living with HIV— Elena’s story, Ukraine


This video story is part of a series titled, “A true story, my story” produced by UN Women Europe and Central Asia Regional Office for the 16 Days of Activism campaign.

Gender-based violence is persistent in Ukraine, the threat and fear of violence among women and girls, permeable. For women living with HIV, in the country with the highest HIV prevalence in Europe, the risk is higher still.

In this short film, Elena Vdovenko, a social worker at the Kyiv Centre for HIV-positive youth, talks about how her HIV+ status and the domestic violence she survived informs her work with women and youth every day. At one point, while she was living with her husband, the violence was so bad that Vdovenko confessed to a crime she had not committed, choosing to hide in prison to escape her husband’s attacks.

An advocate for the rights of women living with HIV, Vdovenko also volunteers with a nation-wide telephone hotline providing information on HIV, AIDS and TB, and helps out at La Strada Ukraine, an international NGO working to prevent domestic violence, gender discrimination and human trafficking. She’s also a member of Kyyanka+, a peer support group for women living with HIV, as part of UN Women’s partner organization in Ukraine, Positive Women.

When women living with HIV and facing domestic violence seek help, Elena Vdovenko offers ‘equal to equal’ counselling, based on her personal experience. She tries to show them that if she could escape and survive the violence, so can they.

A member This year, Positive Women is collaborating with UN Women during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign to address the violence that women living with HIV experience in the health care system, particularly regarding their reproductive rights.