Support for people with HIV/AIDS in Belarus

Positive movement: safety, trust and services for people who inject drugs

Published by UNAIDS

28 June 2019

Most people in the capital city of Belarus become infected with HIV from injecting drugs. As a result, a nongovernmental organization in Minsk and the government have responded with HIV mobile testing clinics, drop-in centres and peer counselling to establish trust with people who often shy away from official health services.

Last year, more than 10 000 people visited the three mobile clinics positioned around the city of Minsk offering HIV testing, care and support services. Of 4000 people tested who inject drugs, more than 500 tested positive for HIV.

Word-of-mouth lets people know the mobile clinics are parked up. Positive Movement, the Minsk-based nongovernmental organization that operates the clinics, also lists their locations on its website. In the van-sized clinics you can get an HIV test, talk to a doctor or simply drink tea and chat with peer counsellors.

Positive Movement staff members have first-hand knowledge of issues affecting their clients. Of the 200 employees working there, more than three quarters have been affected by drug use and/or HIV.

“At first, employees were clients, now they are board members,” says Irina Statkevich, the head of Positive Movement’s board. “We believe that harm reduction works and that we can defeat HIV infection,” she says. «If we decide that this service is needed by our customers, we will do everything to get it!”

Eight years ago, when she started working at the organization, she explains that it was impossible to utter the words needle and syringe exchange programme. “We had to do things incognito.”

Now they have drop-in centres open all day that not only provide clean needles and syringes but also food, HIV testing and a place to wash as well as legal and medical counselling.  Peer-to-peer consultant Julia Stoke likens the centres to safe-havens.

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