Alexandra Arrhén awarded the 2020 Peos Scholarship

Positiva Gruppen Syd awards the Peo Scholarship for the year 2020 to Alexandra Arrhén.

“We are happy and proud to award this year’s scholarship to Alexandra. Peo’s Scholarship is about drawing attention to efforts, both everyday and exceptional, for people living with HIV, by people living with HIV. The year 2020 has tested us both as individuals and as a collective, therefore positive, uplifting initiatives and examples are needed, and this year’s scholarship recipient contributes with that, “says Emanuel Karlström at Positiva Gruppen Syd.

During the year Alexandra was nominated by her mother with the following nomination:

“Our daughter Alexandra was born in 1995, the same year that Peo died and is a fantastically happy and positive girl who received her HIV diagnosis in the autumn of 2018. She had traveled for a long period and in bliss and love became infected. After an initial shock, Alexandra took the message with great composure and has since become involved and disseminated information as well as worked hard to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV. Alexandra is training to be a nurse and has a vision to continue to spread information and to help and inform in places in the world where knowledge about hiv is less widespread. Alexandra is well worth all the scholarships in the world! We love her! ”

We called up Alexandra for a chat a few days after we announced that she will be awarded the scholarship.

Hi Alexandra, how does it feel to have won the Peos Scholarship 2020?

Hey! I was both happy and surprised at the same time! I read about Peo after I got the news and it feels so fun to be noticed, even though I do not think I have done so much. Overall I feel very grateful.

You were 23 when you were diagnosed with HIV in 2018 and it was your mother who nominated you for the scholarship. What have your parents meant to you in dealing with the diagnosis and in continuing to be yourself after the diagnosis?

A lot, mom was at the youth clinic were it all started and when we booked a visit to Huddinge hospital, dad was also there. So from day 1, they have been with me. It has been very important. I trust them and look up to them when I have questions and such. I had my own fears in the beginning, but my parents got educated themselves and pushed me to go to conferences for young people with HIV. So it has been super important to have them with me, you could say that what concerns me also affects them.

When did you first come in contact with others with HIV after your diagnosis? And what did that mean for you?

It was about three weeks after my diagnosis that I got to go to the HIV conference for young people, we were probably about 30 people. I made friends with a guy from there and we have bonded. I think it’s a lot because he got his diagnosis just a year before me and that we both share other interests, such as traveling.

Then it was obviously nice to meet all the others in the beginning who were in the same situation. I felt a bit ashamed in the beginning, that I brought this on myself, but people who had been born with HIV said that neither you nor we who were born with HIV have asked for this. Sure you got it after unprotected sex, but people have unprotected sex all the time. So it was nice to feel that we were still in the same boat so to speak, and not there because we specifically chose it ourselves.

What did it mean to, as in your case, quickly get in touch with peer contacts and others living with HIV?

Now I got in touch with other peers relatively quickly, but it would probably have been good to get a contact directly. For example, my mentor that I got later, if she could have been there a little earlier and maybe prepared me for the conference and welcomed me into different groups. Even though I got in the loop in three weeks, a lot happened, the infection tracing and the whole bit, so yes a contact early is very important.

But I also know others who have had to wait for over a year, and my friend I mentioned earlier had to wait for over a year. Then he did research himself and found others who lived with HIV.

You are studying to become a nurse, how do you see your future, what do you want to do?

Right now I’m in the gynecological ward and it’s very exciting, and it’s probably mainly women I would like to work with or young people. So I see myself working either as a midwife or maybe at a youth clinic. Then I also think it’s very exciting this with people’s own experiences of being sick, and for me, of course then, HIV hits home.

For example, I was in Ethiopia at the beginning of the year and met an organization that worked with HIV to teach me how it works there, how to think about HIV, sex and so on. They thought a little differently, both people who live with HIV and the organizations that work with HIV, I thought that was very interesting. So in the future maybe interview people and dive deeper into these issues, that would be fun!

We thank Alexandra for the chat!

What is the Peos Scholarship? – Per-Olof ”Peo” Persson was 1989-1993 chairman of Positiva Gruppen Syd and a pioneer in drawing attention to HIV and AIDS. He did this both in southern Sweden as well as nationally, as vice chairman of RFHP (National Association for Hiv-positive people, current Hiv- Sweden) during 1991-1993. Peo died in 1995 and since 1996 a memorial scholarship has been awarded in his name. Read more about Peo and the scholarship here: https://www.pgsyd.se/en/peos-stipendium/