Armenian Women’s Half-Life
Every year unemployment and poverty force Armenians to leave, seeking work abroad, mainly to Russia. The migration has deeply shaped the country’s population and the traditional Armenian family – it is men setting off, leaving wives and children behind. Entire villages end up populated by women who raise children often conceived during their husbands’ visits. Some of them never return, simply vanishing. Most come back, bringing with them the scars of long periods away - including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV, which will then transfer onto their wives.
Migration is a nationwide plague. The province of Gegharkunik, in eastern Armenia on the border with Azerbaijan, has one of the country’s highest rates of men packing up for seasonal work abroad, mainly in the construction sector in Russia - about 14.7 percent of its 231,800 inhabitants are migrant workers. A report published in 2015 showed that the husbands of 44 percent of ever-married women work or have worked abroad versus a national average of 25 percent.
In 2014, the National Centre for AIDS Prevention started to provide periodic anonymous testing of HIV, hepatitis B and C in the villages across the region, explained Melanya Geveorgyan, 61, the director of the ambulance in the village of Sarukhan. All information is confidential, and the clinic does not have the number of infected people, but “if the organization continues the testing it means that a health issue exists,” she maintains.
Statistics are almost non existent, but estimates point that 50 percent of HIV cases in Armenia are found among circular migrants.
As women live a half-life, their health ends up being affected as well - adding stigma to the loneliness.