NGOs call for continuing work to prevent HIV in socially vulnerable groups
A consortium of NGOs has set up a fund for social development and health promotion called ‘Focus Media’. These are The Public Health Institute, the Social Development and Information Centre, the Vostok-Zapad (East-West) AIDS Fund, and AIDS Infosvyaz (Infolink) . The consortium wrote an open letter addressed to both the public and the government pointing to the need to maintain the level of prevention of HIV that had been achieved amongst at-risk groups, namely, immigrant workers, people dependent on drugs and members of sexual minorities.
The NGOs’ concern was prompted by the reduction in state support for preventive projects in the Russian regions at the same time as a number of projects financed by the Global Fund for Combating AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria were coming to an end, in particular, the project implemented by the consortium, ‘GLOBUS – the Global Coalition against AIDS’. Over a period of five years GLOBUS had achieved all its aims, been commended by the national co-ordinating committee and earned international recognition as one of the most successful projects of the Global Fund. In the majority of the regions where it has been operating the preliminary data show a marked slowing in the rate of increase of HIV infection amongst the young. ‘Nevertheless’, according to the letter, ‘the numerous promises made by those in charge of health promotion and Russian functionaries at the highest levels to support the NGOs’ programmes remain just that – promises.’
Also quoted is the reply of the ministry of health and social development to a recent approach by 200 NGOs representing the necessity of continuing the GLOBUS project. The letter of reply, signed by the deputy minister of health, Veronica Skvortsova, refers to the Government’s success in expanding access to anti-retroviral treatment and in protecting HIV infected pregnant women by means of chemical drugs (chemoprophylaxis). The letter adds that the main official policy is to give wide publicity to the virtues of a healthy lifestyle and the cultivation of a sense of personal responsibility in that regard. Experts are concerned that such a limited approach will have no impact on the key factor involved in the spread of HIV/AIDS, which is that over half of the cases registered involve drug users and other vulnerable groups. The health system has very limited reach so far as they are concerned. ‘In these circumstances’, stresses the open letter, ’such groups need to be specially targeted and the expertise of NGOs possessing experience of working with these challenging sections of the population needs to be engaged’.
The full text of the open letter may be found at: http://www.hivpolicy.ru/news/?id=3691