million people infected with HIV
in the world: Russia’s ranking for HIV infections
new cases of HIV recorded every year
Russia is facing a growing HIV epidemic. The number of cases officially recorded has passed 1.3 million and is rising by around 10% every year. The epidemic particularly affects sex workers. Sex work is a criminal offence in Russia and sex workers are exposed to violence from the police, their clients and exploitation networks.
Russia is one of the countries with the fastest growing number of people infected with HIV: in terms of the growth rate of the epidemic, it ranks fourth in the world, after South Africa, Nigeria and Mozambique.
Sex workers are often isolated and vulnerable and this is exacerbated by their working conditions, the social stigma they experience and the difficulties they face in accessing medical care.
Awareness-raising and prevention
Since 2015, Médecins du Monde has been working with Russian organisations Shagi in Moscow and Silver Rose in Saint Petersburg to improve access to healthcare for sex workers and help them protect themselves from HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and violence. In September 2019, MdM initiated a new partnership with Zerkalo (an organisation based in Perm, Western Russia). This partnership seeks to introduce a full range of sexual and reproductive health services for sex workers.
Médecins du Monde has been working in Moscow and, since 2019, in the regions with the help of two mobile units and outreach sessions (along motorways and in brothels). This enables staff to go and meet people directly to raise awareness about infections and offer means of prevention (condoms etc.). Sex workers can also be tested for HIV or they can go to the drop-in centre (DIC) for tests and individually tailored support.
Capacity building for local actors in Russia
Through its work in Russia Médecins du Monde seeks to build the capacity of organisations working to tackle the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, such as Shagi, Silver Rose and Zerkalo. We aim to support them in mobilising sex workers to take an active role in looking after their health and quality of life, and to be involved in developing health policy in the areas that affect them.
Conducting research into the prevalence of HIV in Russia
In April 2019, Médecins du Monde, Shagi and Russia’s Central Research Institute of Epidemiology (CRIE) published a survey evaluating the prevalence of HIV and five other STIs among sex workers in Moscow.
This study also helped to identify factors linked to HIV/STIs and to assess respondents’ knowledge of HIV, STIs and access to prevention and treatment.
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