Giving Hope to Drug Users in Moscow
The HCLU visited Moscow last year and produced a movie to promote the work of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, the only NGO that provides clean needles for drug users in Moscow. The ARF gets no funding from the government – please help them to buy a van to improve their street outreach activities!
This is the short version (if you click on cc you can turn on the English subtitles!):
And this is the longer version of our movie:
Despite the hostile political environment and lack of funding, ARF does not give up. It launched a fundraising campaign with the help of Global Giving, the aim is to buy and maintain a van to provide live-saving services for 1000 drug users. ARF has to raise $4,000 from 50 donors by April 30, 11:59 PM EDT to earn a permanent spot on GlobalGiving.
“People come here to inject because they can easily run away if the police show up,” says Vova, a street outreach worker with the Andrey Rylkov Foundation (ARF). We are in a dark, snow-covered park with a brick wall full of graffiti on one side and a busy road on the other. It has an additional benefit: there is a pharmacy nearby where drug users can buy opiate drugs without a prescription. We can see a young couple injecting a legal prescription drug, Nalbufin, in front of our camera. This is one of the many hot spots that outreach workers of the ARF visit every day to provide sterile injecting equipment, condoms and other forms of help for these young people. ARF is the first and only NGO distributing clean needles and syringes among injecting drug users on the streets of Moscow – with zero government funding and support. The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union film crew came to Moscow to make a movie about the incredible work they do.
Andrey Rylkov was one of the founders of FrontAIDS, the first activist NGO fighting for the rights of drug users living with HIV in Russia. The brave actions of FrontAIDS attracted a lot of media attention at the beginning of this century and regularly ended with the spectacular arrest of participating activists. Such radical street actions were desperate acts of survival. At that time it was not possible to access antiretroviral treatment for people who use drugs – they were sentenced to death by the neglectful authorities. Andrey and his friends did not want to silently witness the death of their friends – they chose to make a noise. They chained themselves to the mayor’s office in Kaliningrad or carried coffins in the center of Saint-Petersburg. After he died, a couple of harm reduction activists named a new organization after him – the Andrey Rylkov Foundation.
There are more than a million people living with HIV in Russia and approximately nine out of ten new HIV transmissions were attributed to the sharing of used needles and syringes in 2007 – yet the government banned opiate substitution treatment (OST), one of the most effective ways to reduce infections, overdose deaths and drug related crime. Why? God knows. We asked Viktor Ivanov several times at the press conferences of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), but his answers ranged from misinformation to blatant lies about methadone. The ARF operates an advocacy network to promote OST in Russia and was providing scientific information on its website until February this year, when Mr. Ivanov’s agency banned the website. The HCLU assisted the ARF to re-open the website from a foreign server, so it is back in operation now. However, Mr. Ivanov is not willing to lift the ban. In March he accused ARF of distributing methadone.
Anya Sarang, the head of ARF, does not give up. She is to send an open letter to Mr. Ivanov proposing to hold a joint press conference to explain their different positions on OST to the media. Despite the hostile political environment, she believes the ARF can survive in a globalized world - so she launched an international fund-raising campaign on the Global Giving website. We hope our movies can contribute to the success of this campaign, and kindly ask you to support the survival of Russian drug users!
Posted by Peter Sarosi