The Andrey Rylkov Foundation (ARF) is the only NGO that provides sterile needles and syringes to injecting drug users in Moscow. This fact seems incredible, when you consider that Russia is a country with a rapidly growing HIV epidemic, which is largely driven by the sharing of injecting equipment. ARF workers are up against government hostility, lack of domestic financial resources, the retreat of international donors, and public apathy, when they go out onto the streets of Moscow every day to help marginalised young people.
We have been allies with ARF for several years. In 2012 we produced a movie about the organisation, to promote their fundraising campaign on Global Giving. A few years later, when they published content on their website about the effectiveness of opiate substitution treatment, the government blocked the site. Drugreporter was happy to help and we have been hosting their website to this day.
Unfortunately, it seems this was not enough for Putin’s government. ARF was recently included in the list of so called “foreign agents” - that is, non-governmental organisations that the Russian government regards as presenting a threat to national security because they receive funding from international donors. Inclusion on this list means stigma for an NGO, to a degree which makes normal operation and cooperation with other organisations almost impossible.
Last month, I was arguing here on Drugreporter for stronger resistance against the global crackdown on civil society. The Russian government's current move to add a pioneering HIV prevention NGO to their paranoid propaganda list is not only a threat to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals that aim to end AIDS by 2030 - but an attack on all of us in global civil society.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
The Andrey Rylkov Foundation needs Your help more than ever - the only way to ease the isolation and stigmatisation of the organisation is support from the international community. Please go to the Global Giving website and make a donation today!
Posted by Peter Sarosi