Former Peace Corps volunteer to present on HIV stigmas
CHICAGO - Former Peace Corps volunteer, Larisa Ozeryansky will present on the stigmas that follow HIV positive patients at the Illinois HIV/STD Conference in Chicago on Thursday, October 29th. Ozeryansky is one of the 12 presenters at the event and her presentation is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. CST.
The conference features notable speakers presenting on their research on HIV/STDs and prevention mechanisms that can be employed in the future. Ozeryansky’s presentation, on the other hand, will stem solely from her Peace Corps experience in Kyrgyzstan and her knowledge and research within the medical field.
“It is very unusual for a person to present on a personal experience, such as a Peace Corps experience, at these types of conferences,” said Ozeryansky. “The conference attendees are professionals in HIV/STDs, and I think this presentation could help any health professional working with patients dealing with social stigma by serving as an example or an alternative to approaching related issues.”
Ozeryansky served as a health education volunteer in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, from 2013-15. While abroad, she led support groups and educational activities for mothers and caretakers of children with HIV. But through her efforts she faced obstacles and challenges that were difficult to overcome, one being the stigma of HIV.
“In the case of these HIV positive children, it is the parents who feel this stigma and fear for their children,” Ozeryansky said. “Many of these parents come from rural areas and lack education and do not know that it is possible for their children to lead normal lives - even to marry and have children - and they do not know how to protect them.”
Ozeryansky remembers one mother in particular who would stay awake every night watching her child, afraid that she may die at any moment. Her presentation will draw upon these experiences and focus on combatting stigmas. Through Peace Corps, Ozeryansky has learned what it takes to employ a social change, especially a big one.
“Now I know how hard it is to affect change outside myself - it requires a lot of time spent with other change-makers and stakeholders and those in need,” Ozeryansky said. “In my Peace Corps work I had to be present and pushing all the time to make something happen.”
About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps sends the best and brightest Americans abroad on behalf of the United States to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Volunteers work at the grassroots level to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. Through their service, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today’s global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, nearly 220,000 Americans of all ages have served in 140 countries worldwide. In under an hour, those interested in the Peace Corps can complete the application and choose their country of service and program area. For more information, visit www.peacecorps.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.