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Experts Say Russia Ill-Equipped to Fight HIV

Published: August 18, 2014 (Issue # 1824)



  • Volunteers handing out clean needles near a pharmacy. Such programs are the preserve of NGOs in Russia.
    Photo: Pascal Dumont / SPT

Olesya asks if her glittery hair clips are in place, if her hot pink lipstick needs reapplication.

It's all she can do to detract attention from the stump where her arm used to be, the price she paid for injecting drugs even after the site became gangrenous.

People walking past the pharmacy where volunteers chat with Olesya — an intravenous drug user with HIV — glare at the young woman, quickening their pace as they go. Others, many of them also young women, stop to accept the clean syringes, HIV tests and pregnancy tests being handed out as part of an outreach program to do the things that many specialists say authorities are not: acknowledge the fact that a full-blown HIV epidemic is becoming more and more of a reality each day.

Behind the pharmacy in northern Moscow is a field where some drug users go to shoot up. This one, in stark contrast with many others, is mostly free from used syringes.

"There is one other field that is just a carpet of used syringes," one of the volunteers says.

The same group running the outreach program, the Andrei Rylkov Foundation, a grassroots organization in Moscow that seeks to promote awareness of drug addiction and develop a humane drug policy, conducts periodic cleanup operations in public places to dispose of used syringes. These are often the same parks where families take their children to play, an alarming reminder of how close the epidemic is to spreading to non-drug users.

Olesya pulls up her pants to reveal another festering injection wound.

"Maybe you should go to the hospital," the volunteers tell her.

"Will they take me?"

"You're officially registered as a Moscow resident, right? Then they'll take you."

"Last time they refused because of my leg. They said gangrene is for drug addicts."

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Nov. 22


Russian Premier League-leaders Zenit St. Petersburg return from the international break to take on Kuban Krasnodar at Petrovsky Stadium this evening at 7 p.m. Tickets for the game can still be purchased on the club’s website, at the Petrovsky Stadium box office or in any of the club’s merchandise stores.



Sunday, Nov. 23


Get in the holiday spirit at today’s Winter Bazzar at the Astoria Hotel. Featuring gifts from around the world such as French eclairs, Dutch cheeses and Indian jewelry, the annual event organized by the International Women’s Club will feature 18 international stands and raise money for charity through the sales of a diversity of products that further illustrate the city’s international connections.



Monday, Nov. 24


Dr. Axel Schulte, Department Head at Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund, Germany, is the featured speaker at the SPIBA Industrial Committee lecture on “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Digitalization of the Supply Chain.” The event begins at 4 p.m. at the Graduate School of Management at 3 Volkohvsky Pereulok and registration is required by Nov. 21 either by emailing office@spiba.ru or calling 325 9091.



Tuesday, Nov. 25


Tag along with AmCham during their “Industrial St. Petersburg” Tour program today. This incarnation of the ongoing series will visit Philip Morris Izhora and include an Environmental Health and Safety Committee meeting.


Find out how to expand your business east during the “Business With China” forum beginning today and concluding tomorrow at the Lenexpo convention center. The largest Russian forum dedicated to business with the Asian giant, topics that will be discussed include logistics, customs clearance, trade financing and many more.



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