Category Archives: Russia

Who’s Missing from the Global AIDS Conference?

Every other year, AIDS activists everywhere travel far and wide to attend the International AIDS Conference, pushing for access to HIV prevention and treatment for all. The conference hasn’t been in the U.S. for eons, because back in the 80s, a widely reviled individual named Senator Jesse Helms made sure that anyone living with HIV could not enter the country. Two years ago, the HIV travel ban was lifted, and this year, the conference will be in the U.S — in Washington, DC from July 22 to 27.

But this country is still excluding countless people living with HIV.

When people from other countries apply to enter the U.S., even just to attend a conference, they must answer these 2 questions:

  1. Are you or have you ever been a drug abuser or drug addict?
  2. Are you coming to the United States to engage in prostitution or unlawful commercialized vice or have you been engaged in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past 10 years?

If you know how it is that we humans get HIV, you know that drug use and sex work are among the ways. Why talk about fighting a disease without the people who are dealing with it? This policy cuts out a massive number of people around the world who are living with HIV or at risk for HIV, including those working in the field and organizing for an end to this disease, from going to the International AIDS Conference. In response, drug users and sex workers and their allies around the world have set up hivhumanrightsnow.org to educate the world one blog entry at a time. Drug users and people living with HIV in Eastern Europe will have their own conference in Kiev to strategize the fight against AIDS. Sex workers and their allies will meet in Kolkata.

Tune in to @HIVhumanRIGHTS for tweets from sex workers, drug users and their allies about what the world needs to do to fight AIDS, and keep checking the blog at hivhumanrightsnow.org for inspiring updates.

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Filed under criminalization of HIV, Drug users' rights, Europe, harm reduction, immigration/migration, India, people with AIDS in leadership, Russia, sex workers' rights, stigma

Harm Reduction Activism in Russia

By Masha Ovchinnikova

JUNE 2007 • Issue 5

Masha Ovchinnikova is an activist and project coordinator at FrontAIDS, a Russian AIDS activist group. She is a former drug user living in Moscow and has been doing harm reduction work for about three years. She can be reached at Riotmasha (at) yandex.ru.

In November 2004, shortly after activists started FrontAIDS, the group protested outside the government administration building in St. Petersburg to demand HIV treatment for drug users.

There are more than one million people living with HIV in the Russian Federation, and about 80 percent have an experience of injecting drug use. About 60 percent of people using injection drugs have hepatitis C (HCV), and about five million people in Russia are officially registered as living with HCV.

Harm reduction or forced detox?

The Russian government is more attracted to taking repressive action against drug use than encouraging harm reduction measures. Now government officials are discussing forced treatment for drug users. Methadone is a medication from the “first list” (the list of most dangerous) drugs, which means it is banned. We tried to raise this question in a meeting with the director of the Russian narcological system, N. N. Ivanez, and he said that it’s absolutely unrealistic to create a methadone therapy system in Russia now.

Drop-in centers and needle exchange programs are dependent on the local government’s opinion. In some cities, like Kaliningrad, needle exchange programs are absolutely prohibited. They are interpreted as a form of propaganda for drug use, so people who provide it are subject to arrest. In some places, syringe exchange is legal but, still, it is not well funded. Usually there are just two or three exchanges in each city, and drug users are often afraid of going to such places because they could be arrested near them.

Drug users and human rights

Many financial, bureaucratic and moral barriers keep drug users from being able to take care of their health, or sometimes their lives. People can’t receive any medical help at the usual clinics if they are “kicking.” If you want to go into a detox program, you have to wait a few weeks, sometimes more. You have to prepare a lot of documents and take some tests (including HIV testing). Then, there is no guarantee you’ll get good medicine — but what’s for sure is that you’ll be blamed and humiliated by the clinic staff. Continue reading

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Filed under disaster capitalism, Drug users' rights, economic justice, harm reduction, hepatitis, police repression, Russia, Solidarity Project, stigma, treatment access, Uncategorized