Four or five times a month, truck driver Aziz Yadygarov makes the long journey between the cities of Dashoguz and Ashgabat in Turkmenistan. The 1,000km round trip through the barren Karakum Desert takes 16 hours.
It’s a tough life, and Aziz says many drivers turn to alcohol and drugs. As well as causing family breakdowns, drivers’ lifestyles can put them at risk of illnesses including HIV – through unprotected sex or sharing needles.
That’s why the Red Crescent Society of Turkmenistan is helping truck drivers get the knowledge to protect themselves.
Now Aziz and his friends are spreading the word themselves, helping other drivers stay healthy.
Visit puts Aziz on new path
Aziz is married with a three-year-old boy, but a few years ago his drug use put his relationship with his family under threat.
One day, Red Crescent volunteers came to the truck depot where Aziz is based. They talked about TB and HIV, as well as the risks of drug use. Before the visit, Aziz had no idea how these illnesses were spread or what he could do to protect himself.
They also learned essential information about TB. It is a treatable illness, but one that is particularly dangerous for people living with HIV. The advice had a big impact – Aziz says: “After we came here, we gave up drugs and now our families are restored.”
But the good news doesn’t stop there. The group were inspired to help others, and became volunteers themselves. Aziz says: “Me and my friends spread information when we stop with other drivers at the side of the highway.”
One of the group is Hemra Redjepov, 43. Hemra says: “I’m thinking about people’s futures, and also the future of their kids. That’s why I want to help them.”
- The Red Crescent’s HIV and TB work is supported by the British Red Cross. It includes advice and information for people who are most at risk from HIV, such as injecting drug users, sex workers, the military, and men who have sex with men. In the last 14 years, the Red Crescent has also helped tens of thousands of people learn about or complete treatment for TB. Read how Arsene overcame the illness.