Anastasia Pokrovskaya: “Deportation of Migrants with HIV Leads to Criminalization”

Photo: minusvirus.org

Author: Oksana Maklakova, Russia

The government of the Russian Federation is planning to increase the country’s population by 5-10 million people, by attracting migrants from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Moldova. This is what Russian policy-makers say. However, Russia is the only country in the Council of Europe which still deports foreign citizens living with HIV. Anastasia Pokrovskaya, senior research associate of the Federal AIDS Centre, says that introducing amendments to the relevant regulations could protect the health of many people and contribute to their decriminalization. As part of the Partnership Program, she was involved in drafting an expert report for a project to ensure migrant access to HIV treatment and abolish the provision on deportation of foreigners living with HIV who enter the Russian Federation.

How many migrants come to Russia and what is the rate of HIV prevalence among them?

– According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 2018 Russia issued 1,671,706 labour patents to migrants. Those are people who enter the country legally and are officially registered with the relevant authorities. To get a labour patent or a permit to stay in the country for a period exceeding three months, medical examinations, including HIV testing, are mandatory. HIV prevalence is about 100 cases per 100,000 people tested. However, this number does not reflect the real HIV prevalence as some migrants, anticipating possible test results, avoid health check-ups. They come to the country illegally, get short-term visas without getting any patents, buy fake health certificates or send another person to be tested in their place. This law on deportation of foreigners with HIV creates many opportunities for illegal activity, both among migrants and among Russian organizations which offer migrants illegal services to help them get round the law.

Is this typical only for Russia? What’s the situation in other countries?

– Initially about 60 countries applied the rule: if you fall ill or cross the border with HIV, you have to leave the country. However, there are now only nine countries, including Russia, where such regulations still exist. Other countries, such as the United States, Armenia and Ukraine, abolished such legislation in the last 5-10 years.

What is the goal of your project?

– Our goal is to show why this approach should be changed in the first place; to demonstrate the demographic and epidemiological premises for abolishing deportation provisions. We have developed a document providing medical and legal justifications why we need to amend the legislation. We state that this provision should be repealed because it does not bring any benefits. Firstly, it is clear that it will not help us to end the HIV epidemic. In terms of new HIV cases we are ahead of many neighbouring countries from which migrants come to Russia. Secondly, in reality this law does not work anyway. People stay in the country, but go underground and continue living in the ‘grey zone’. As a result, they remain sick and infect others while their disease progresses, as they have no access to treatment. Meanwhile, they cannot go back to their home countries to get treatment because they are afraid they will not be able to return.

Photo: minusvirus.org

What is the current response to such challenges?

– There are some NGOs which help deliver services to such people. According to the law, we are not able to ensure comprehensive medical check-ups or provide relevant health assistance to migrants. The biggest challenge is that we are not able to provide them with antiretroviral therapy (ART). This is the biggest issue. Russian citizens can access ART free of charge. However, our government is not ready to allocate funding to treat foreigners, for obvious reasons.

So there are economic reasons for not abolishing the regulations?

– Probably. There are concerns about financial and administrative consequences. International agreements should be signed between governments. It is difficult for us to use the experience of other countries in addressing the issues of HIV and migrants, as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other international charities which could take over some functions in this regard do not operate in Russia. Even if the country abolishes the regulation on deportation of foreigners living with HIV and such people get the right to stay in our country legally, they could still receive ART at home. All AIDS centres in neighbouring countries accept migrants who are registered for HIV care, and provide them with ART medications for several months. However, to get registered for HIV care, people have to leave Russia and then come back, which is currently not possible due to the travel ban on foreigners living with HIV. Thus, we will have to find our own solutions to this situation. There are some options currently being discussed, but it needs time. The final decision should be made by policy-makers, but unless they are informed about this issue they will not resolve it. We have to speak about it and suggest possible solutions. Only then could the laws be revised. I am sure that in our society there will be people who oppose such amendments, as they think migrants are bad for our country. However, those people often forget that migrants are a unique labour resource and in a way a demographic resource which modern Russia really needs.

AFEW International and Partners Start Implementing a New Project in Russia and Kyrgyzstan

Anke van Dam (on the right) and Daria Alexeeva presented the project in Russia. Photo: E.V.A.

Starting from January 2019, AFEW International began to implement the project St. Petersburg and Bishkek – Key Populations and HIV & TB Prevention Priorities funded through the Aidsfonds under the PITCH. The project covers key populations and HIV and tuberculosis prevention priorities in St. Petersburg, Russia and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

PITCH is a strategic partnership between Aidsfonds and the Frontline AIDS (former International HIV/AIDS Alliance) working with those most affected by HIV: adolescent girls and young women, LGBTI, people who use drugs, prisoners and sex workers. The program aims to enable these groups to transform (inter)national HIV responses by strengthening their advocacy skills and capacities and promoting the innovative evidence-informed practice. This will contribute to cities in the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) joining the fast-track city initiative and building political support for an HIV/AIDS response focused on key populations.

“Within this project, we are focusing on working with St. Petersburg and Bishkek and municipal level governments on HIV geographically-focused responses,” says AFEW International’s program manager Daria Alexeeva. “In this way, we are continuing our work we stared under the Fast-track Cities project in partnership with Alliance for Public Health where we are developing models of sustainable city responses to HIV and TB in key population in EECA that significantly contribute to achieving 90-90-90 HIV/TB targets for key populations.”

The project St. Petersburg and Bishkek – Key Populations and HIV & TB Prevention Priorities will work on several strategies: community based participatory research to reveal the most acute needs of the key populations, changing attitude of the decision maker towards key groups, involving key groups into the advocacy process, and experience exchange between the three countries, negotiations with the cities authorities on signing Paris Declaration and Zero TB Declaration.

AFEW Creates Space for Public Health Within EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

Author: Valeria Fulga, AFEW International

AFEW International initiates the Working Group (WG) on public and inclusive health within the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. AFEW is doing it together with the following organisations: Active Citizenship, Stichting Skosh, Centre for Social Support “Navigator”, FOCUS-MEDIA Foundation, Humanitarian Action, Humanitarian Project, Kovcheg Anti-AIDS. AFEW felt the need of introducing a completely new topic to the Forum after participating in various General Assembly meetings of the Forum.

Having a healthy society stands at the very base of any nation. Health-related issues arise not only within health-related policies but also at various other levels.

AFEW International sees deteriorations in Romania, Bulgaria and Russia when it comes to the freedom of speech and implementation of social justice work in the light of the health field. Working in solidarity with the European Union and Russia Civil Society Organisations towards inclusiveness, particularly when it comes to health is what AFEW aims for in this WG.

“More precisely, the present WG aims to learn from other Civil Society Organisations what methods worked for them and we – the members of the WG – would like to use it as an exchange platform and understand how other countries are working on an inclusive health agenda and how they are resilient in difficult times,” says Janine Wildschut, coordinator of the WG from AFEW’s side.

AFEW International has already gathered a group of active community-led civil society organisations in the WG. These organisations have a background in HIV or key populations fields. During the General Assembly which will take place in Bratislava in May 2019, several meetings will be organised. These meetings will have two different objectives: discussing the path for the WG and opening the WG for other interested parties. Those organisations that are interested in joining AFEW’s WG can get in touch with AFEW’s director of programs and WG’s coordinator Janine Wildschut at janine_wildschut@AFEW.nl.

AFEW-Kyrgyzstan Opened a Youth Centre in Bishkek

Author: Grana Ziia, AFEW-Kyrgyzstan

On March 19, the ground floor of the Palace of Sports in Bishkek was crowded: teenagers, civil servants, representatives of the city hall and non-governmental organisations, social workers of district administrations and AFEW-Kyrgyzstan team all gathered together for the opening ceremony of a new youth centre.

In the spacious hall, decorated with felt paintings and bright red wallpapers, the Deputy Director of the State Agency for Youth Affairs, Physical Culture and Sports Mirlan Parkhanov welcomes all the guests. He says that this centre was opened last year to organise events and conferences for young people.

– Now, with the support of AFEW-Kyrgyzstan, a teenage centre is opened here. A psychologist and a social worker are now working here. They will organise free counselling for adolescents and their parents, organise useful leisure activities for young people, those who wish can join sport clubs and do other extracurricular activities, – Mr. Parkhanov is saying and inviting all guests for a tour around the centre.

The most important thing is to have trust from children

Guests are entering the interactive room. Judging by the interest with which they take pictures there, they like this room very much. Inside there is a dozen of bright fashionable beanbags, a shelf with board games and brochures about health, family planning, and drug use prevention. On the walls, there are posters with the rules of the centre and announcements of various competitions and grants for young people. There is a computer, a projector and a big screen for teenagers in the corner of the room.

Another room is a room for the staff of the centre and individual consultations of adolescents with a psychologist, social workers and other specialists. It is cosy here. There are also felt paintings and framed carpet, cookies on the table, and a few pillows on the sofa.

– We tried to create the most relaxed atmosphere here so that the children can trust us. I hope it worked out! – says the psychologist of the centre Margarita.

A place for useful leisure and development

After the tour, the guests gather in the conference room again. AFEW-Kyrgyzstan manager Chinara Imankulova begins the presentation of the services of the youth centre and talks about the idea of opening the centre.

– Last year, with the support of the Central Asia Drug Action Programme (CADAP), AFEW-Kyrgyzstan conducted a study on the prevalence of psychoactive substances usage among adolescents in Kyrgyzstan. The data obtained showed that it was time to begin working on prevention. Thus, this centre appeared. We want all teenagers to come here, and not just those who use psychoactive substances or are in a difficult life situation. Here, teenagers will have a safe space to relax, to talk to their peers and get professional support, – says Chinara.

The psychologist and social worker of the centre add that this form of work with adolescents is the most effective. When children come from different groups, they communicate with each other, share interests and help each other. Therefore, no one feels deprived and lonely.

Joined efforts are needed

In her presentation, Chinara is saying that the centre will also function to increase the capacity of psychologists, social workers and pedagogues, doctors and juvenile inspectors. Guests perceive the news with enthusiasm, because, according to them, there is a need for constant professional growth.

The guests of the event are also saying that Bishkek needs such a centre for a long time. They also talk about the problems they face in their practice. After the discussion, they develop a plan of cooperation with the centre: how to guide children, how to interest them, how to organise training sessions.

Employees of professional lyceums are saying that they are ready to hold master classes for teenagers; representatives of the city hall promise to help with the transportation for outdoor events; the department of physical culture and sports is ready to engage teenagers from the centre in free sports activities. After all, only with joined efforts, we can build a healthy future.

AFEW Educated Dutch Audience on Health in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

AFEW International’s program manager Daria Alexeeva recently took part in the unofficial lunch with the mayor of the Dutch city Assen (Drenthe province) Marco Out and also public debates. Daria had an opportunity to talk to the Dutch audience about public health issues in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA).

The Dutch title of the events was Europa’s Rafelende Randen which translates into English as Europe’s Fraying Edges. The idea behind the events is to inform people in Assen and Drenthe about international developments through the eyes of female human and social rights activists. Daria Alexeeva was talking mainly about the situation with HIV/AIDS, sex workers and trafficking in the EECA region.

“It is important for the Dutch public to know what challenges Eastern Europe and Central Asia are facing in the sphere of public health,” says Daria. “The programs that we are implemented in EECA are being financed via the money of the Dutch taxpayers. Thus, it is important to realize that their money is targeted towards something as important as fighting HIV and AIDS in the EECA region. Besides, this region is bordering Western Europe, and good neighbours always help each other.”

Besides the public health topics, the guests of the meeting – female activists from Russia, Poland and Lithuania – were talking also about Chechnya and the work of the Memorial organisation, developments in Poland and Ukraine and LGBTI in the Baltic countries.

AFEW-Kyrgyzstan Opens a Social Beauty Salon in Bishkek

Head of AFEW-Kyrgyzstan Natalya Shumskaya is cutting the red ribbon during the ceremony of opening the salon

Author: Grana Ziia, AFEW-Kyrgyzstan

March 7, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

The city is stuck in pre-holiday traffic jams. Flower stands with colourful tulips are opening near a big shopping mall. Today flowers are in demand among the guests of a new beauty salon called Good Luck. They are doing their best to come in time for the opening ceremony. The salon is located in the city centre, surrounded by popular coffee houses, schools and apartment buildings. There is a red ribbon at the entrance to the salon. Music is playing. The guests are holding bright flowers, balloons, and cakes in their hands. Everyone is hugging, greeting each other and congratulating the AFEW-Kyrgyzstan team. It is easy to tell what the reason for such joy is.

“Good Luck is a ‘kind’ beauty studio – a social enterprise established to support women in difficult life circumstances. We opened it with the support of the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality. We are implementing a project, where women can attend workshops to develop their personal skills and knowledge of the economy and then receive mini-grants to start their own businesses. When we saw that there were many women who needed our support, we decided that we wanted to develop this area of our activities,” tells Natalya Shumskaya, head of AFEW-Kyrgyzstan, before cutting the red ribbon.

Supporting those who need support

In several minutes, the guests come inside. In the main room, they are welcomed by the staff members – six women in snow-white uniforms. They have happy smiles on their faces and are proudly fixing their badges. In the room, there are black chairs for make-up artists and hairdressers, a long manicure table and mirrors with bright lights.

AFEW-Kyrgyzstan opened a social beauty salon with the support of the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality

The studio looks like a cosy house, where every detail is chosen with love. The pink wall in the centre of the room has been painted by the salon staff. There are bright pillows on the couch and glossy magazines on the glass table. Lots of flowers and balloons. Make-up, shampoos and hair dye tubes on the shelves. You just feel like touching, watching and trying everything here.

After the welcoming speeches, the Good Luck salon gets noisy. The clients in their chairs are turning catalogues to choose their nail polish, discussing their haircuts with hairdressers or choosing the colour of their eyebrows. Someone is already washing hair. At first sight, it looks like those are just ordinary people preening their feathers on the eve of the International Women’s Day. However, if you listen to people talking, it becomes clear that it is not so simple.

“For us it is close, so we will come and support them. It is good when all the money earned goes to help women who need help,” shares her thoughts Aida Karagulova, Director of the City AIDS Centre.

Women will be trained

Natalya Shumskaya is sure that this beauty studio will become a turning point in someone’s life

Clients were satisfied with the services they received. The guests were making photos and paying compliments to each other. With their new haircuts, make-up and nails done, they went on to finish their festive preparations.

“We have a training centre here at the salon, where we plan to train women in difficult life circumstances to become beauty salon artists so that they can find jobs,” says Indira, the salon manager, taking us on a tour to show the premises.

Natalya Shumskaya presents a flower in a big pot to the studio and it takes an honourable place at the entrance. The flower is called Women’s Bliss.

“Here it is a good place for this plant as this salon works for those who are looking for their bliss so hard! I am sure that this beauty studio will become a turning point in someone’s life, helping to find a job, start a new career and believe in the woman’s power and right to independence,” says Natalya Shumskaya before she leaves the salon.

IT’S TIME to End Tuberculosis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

This year’s International TB Day’s theme is “IT’S TIME”

Authors: Helena Arntz, Olesya Kravchuk, AFEW International

24th of March marks World Tuberculosis day. The mortality rate of tuberculosis (TB) continues to decrease, but it is still one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), TB caused 1.7 million deaths in 2017. Within the European region, most new TB cases and deaths are found in the Eastern European and Central Asian (EECA) countries. In this region, we face an increasing number of drug-resistant TB cases which becomes a real concern for patients and public health.

Countries in the Eastern part of the WHO European Region are most affected by the TB epidemic: 18 high-priority countries for TB control bear 85% of the TB burden, and 99% of the multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) burden. These countries are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Despite much progress in Eastern Europe, critical challenges remain as regards access to appropriate treatment regimens, patient hospitalisation, scale-up of laboratory capacity, including the use of rapid diagnostics and second-line Drug Susceptibility Testing (DST), vulnerable populations human resources, and financing.

AFEW Network is helping to eliminate tuberculosis in EECA. AFEW Kazakhstan together with KNCV in the Improved TB/HIV prevention & care – building models for the future project is increasing access to TB treatment. A model for effective partnership between government and public sectors of health care and organisation of civil society that provide TB-HIV services in Almaty, Kazakhstan is being developed. Within the Fast-Track TB/HIV Responses for Key Populations in EECA Cities project, AFEW Kazakhstan is piloting the innovative model of increasing the participation of the city administration in programs for the prevention and treatment of HIV infection and tuberculosis in the city of Almaty with particular emphasis on key populations. Within this program, models of sustainable city responses to HIV and TB in key population in EECA that significantly contribute to achieving 90-90-90 HIV/TB targets for key populations are being developed. The program is working in Bulgaria (Sofia), Georgia (Tbilisi), Kazakhstan (Almaty), Moldova (Balti), Ukraine (Odesa).

This year’s International TB Day’s theme is “IT’S TIME”. This slogan is indicating that it is time to end tuberculosis. There is a number of events that will draw attention to this day in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The youth community center “Compass” in Kharkiv, Ukraine will hold a training session on the prevention of TB in one of the schools they work in. Local NGOs in Kazakhstan have been providing tuberculosis screening in the shopping malls and markets before World TB Day and were raising awareness of the disease within the students and migrants.

Videos from AIDS 2018 и IAS 2017 Now Available in Russian

Videos from AIDS 2018 and IAS 2017 Now Available in Russian. The IAS Educational Fund provides educational and inspiring sessions from IAS conferences (International AIDS Conferences and IAS Conferences on HIV Science) to clinicians and other healthcare providers and advocates. To make content accessible to more people, the IAS Educational Fund provides several sessions subtitled and transcribed in FrenchSpanishPortuguese and Russian.

You can find the sessions from AIDS 2018 Conference with the subtitles in Russian here.

Source: www.iasociety.org

People who Use Drugs Deserve Love, Respect and Support

Author: Grana Ziia, AFEW-Kyrgyzstan

Sergey Bessonov from Bishkek is the head of the organization that protects the rights of people who use drugs (PWUD) – “Harm Reduction Network Association” (HRNA). Sergey himself used drugs in the past. However, he admits that everyone has the right to make his own choice whether to stop using drugs or not.

Now Sergey dedicates his life to the community of people who use drugs. In his interview with AFEW-Kyrgyzstan, Sergey is talking about the challenges of the community of people who use drugs in Kyrgyzstan, drug policy and his future plans. Below are some of Sergey’s thoughts in direct speech.

About the desire to be heard

For a long time, the problem of drug use was solved by using strict bans: prisons, fines, and information that PWUDs are no longer members of our society, that they are somehow bad, dangerous… I myself know a lot of people who died from the overdose, I saw people who spent most of their lives in prisons for using soft drugs. These people were left without work, housing and the possibility to live the life they wanted to.

Now in Kyrgyzstan, the government started to understand that a progressive drug policy cannot be built without a community. However, it is very important for us that the community participation in the development of programs was not just for show. We want our opinion to be respected, considered and trusted. We need the possibility of professional growth.

About the professional growth

The project “Bridging the Gaps: Health and Rights for Key Populations” (BtG) started to help us a few years ago. Over the past two years, this project gave people from the community the possibility to take part in trainings on negotiation skills, legal monitoring by the community, analysis of regulatory legal acts.

These trainings helped us to develop some of our skills. Using this knowledge, people from our community started to develop their own organisations, participate in working groups with governmental representatives and implement advocacy programs.

About the new drug policy

Last year, our country started talking about changes in criminal and administrative codes. Governmental representatives finally understood that sending people who use drugs to prison instead of rehabilitation and harm reduction programs is ineffective and cruel.

During the analyses of new regulatory acts that HRNA conducted with the support of the BtG project and AFEW-Kyrgyzstan, we found some negative changes. For example, new amendments, which now started to work, increased the fine for carrying and possession of drugs twice. The new fine is unaffordable, which means that people will again be imprisoned. Now we are negotiating with international and state structures, with other NGOs and explaining to them why this novelty needs to be revised.

BtG also provided us with an opportunity to conduct focus groups among PWUDs. We found out that not all people are aware of the new laws. This creates extortion and corruption. Now we are constantly monitoring new cases of detention of drug users and support people who use drugs.

About the alternative to prisons

According to the new offense code of Kyrgyzstan, alternative punishment that is called probation is provided for people who use drugs and who have committed any kind of offense. Therefore, now a person has an opportunity to avoid prison.

The initiative itself is very good and we now have a lot of work for its successful implementation. We have already come to the agreement with several probation services and they are letting us know if a person who uses drugs came to them.

HRNA also plans to work with judges to explain that we should punish people only for offenses, not for using drugs. People in our country still have many stereotypes towards people who use drugs. These stereotypes can influence judges’ decisions about sending a drug user to prison or probation.

About the needs of the community

People who use drugs almost always remain alone. Parents turn away from them, doctors reject to help, friends betray them, mass media use offensive words, police suspect them in all crimes. Sometimes we become the only home and friend for each other. With our examples, we show that people who use drugs deserve love and respect.

To help our community to be strong and united, the BtG project is supporting our dialogue platform. Thanks to this, we can meet, discuss and stay united. I feel that the community is getting stronger and more confident with years passing by.

Together we build a liberal healthy future in Kyrgyzstan, where every person can get help and fulfill their potential.

Natalya Shumskaya: “Without a Professional Team We Would Not Have Succeeded”

Author: Grana Zia, AFEW-Kyrgyzstan

The executive director of AFEW-Kyrgyzstan Natalya Shumskaya is talking about the successes and challenges of the organisation in 2018 and the new demands for 2019.

– Natalia, what are the main achievements that AFEW-Kyrgyzstan can be proud of in 2018?

– I am really proud that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognized the clinical guideline we developed for the management of pregnancy among women who use psychoactive substances as the best practice.

In the women’s colony, where we work in partnership with the Penal Medical Service and the Republican AIDS Centre, we managed to achieve the goal of 90-90-90: 90% of HIV-positive people are aware of their status, 90% of them take antiretroviral (ARV) therapy and reach supressed viral load. This is our common contribution to the fight against the HIV epidemic, and it is very encouraging to see such results.

I am also proud that we have managed to develop guidelines for the effective functioning of the coordination commissions on HIV infection and tuberculosis. Under this guideline, we trained over 100 representatives of regional public health commissions in all regions of Kyrgyzstan. We successfully lobbied for the participation of civil society organisations in these commissions.

Remembering 2018, I should also mention the delegation from Kyrgyzstan at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam AIDS 2018. We have been looking for funding for a long time, negotiating with various donors. Here is our result: 16 participants from Kyrgyzstan took part in more than 15 sessions; six delegates from Kyrgyzstan became conference speakers, and five delegates took part in poster presentations. At AIDS 2018, we even organized our own workshop for the countries of the Eastern European and Central Asian (EECA) region on community participation in decision making at all levels. I consider this a success, and, taking into the account the huge amount of work for this case, I call this a great achievement.

I am also proud that in 2018 we were able to agree with AFEW International and UN-Women in Kyrgyzstan on the opening of a rehabilitation centre and a social enterprise. It was a long process of negotiating, but we were able to take this step for the sake of healthy future for our country.

– What were your main challenges in 2018?

– I think that challenges are, first of all, opportunities. For example, in 2018 we planned the opening of a centre for teenagers for the prevention of usage of psychoactive substances. It was important for us that the state also contributed to the opening of this centre. We wanted to emphasize the importance of investing in youth development by the state. Children need our help. Unfortunately, negotiations with the mayor’s office were very long. It took us a very long time to receive a huge amount of necessary permits. We organized meetings, made concessions, but we were rejected. In early 2019, the opportunity arose to open such a centre in partnership with the State Agency for Youth, Physical Culture and Sports under the Government. They gave us a large and warm room in the heart of the city of Bishkek. Starting from March, our centre for teenagers begins its work.

– What are the main goals for AFEW-Kyrgyzstan in 2019?

– First of all, we plan to start our social entrepreneurship. We have already opened a training centre and beauty studio. We plan to train women in difficult life situations and to employ them later to work in the beauty studio. Now the important task is to think about marketing strategy and put everything on a self-sufficiency track. For us, this is a new experience. Now we will master fashionable beauty services, understand all the difficulties of accounting and business.

Another goal is to ensure stable development and financial support of our rehabilitation centre. It is being built now with the support of AFEW International. We want it to be a high-quality, multi-functional, modern and convenient for people who use drugs. We do not accept “semi-results”, and will definitely achieve all the goals.

Of course, 2019 will be for us a year of searching for new directions and programs, and strengthening advocacy activities, especially in the field of budget advocacy from the state. We want to strengthen relations with the donor community, non-governmental organisations and the state.

– Natalia, what do you think distinguishes AFEW-Kyrgyzstan from other non-governmental organisations in Kyrgyzstan?

– I think our strongest point is our employees. Due to the fact that our entire team is people with completely different education and experience, we can work in a very large range of services. Among us there are specialists in the field of HIV, tuberculosis, gender experts, researchers, business consultants. In 2017, for example, we began to develop the direction of helping women in difficult life situations. It was the first experience, but now this direction is very successful: 320 women from various key groups (single mothers, victims of gender-based violence, HIV-positive women) had training on the development of economic independence. Some of them started their business after that, someone has already come to our beauty studio as a master or coach. Without a professional team that is ready for new challenges, we would not have succeeded.