Key Populations of Kyrgyzstan Signed Memorandum of Cooperation

img_4835Organizations that work with various key populations in Kyrgyzstan had their first partners’ meeting to develop joint action plan in October 2016. The meeting was attended not only by the staff of organizations working within the framework of the project “Bridging the Gaps: Health and Rights for Key Populations 2”, but also by the representatives of key populations. The main goal was to create a joint action plan for the year of 2017.

Four organizations that work with key populations SW, PUD and LGBT in Kyrgyzstan are getting grants within the project “Bridging the Gaps: Health and Rights for Key Populations 2.” It is not a secret that stigma exists within key populations, and the partners’ meeting and common work in the future could help to overcome barriers and build partnerships.

– Before this meeting, the cooperation of key groups existed, but it was scattered, – the representative of the LGBT community Sanjar says. – Only some of the organizations or individuals were working together. I think that now there will be more understanding, cohesion and partnership development. With this meeting we started the construction of the charter community solidarity. We did not know about the problems of each other, but the joint activity will help to get to know them more.

At the meeting, partners developed activities based on common challenges and discussed methods of communication when working together. Organizations that work with different key populations plan to set up a Google group for the permanent exchange of information and will carry out such partnership meetings on an annual basis.

– For me, joint work showed that despite many differences and peculiarities of each particular group, we have many common barriers, which are based, in my opinion, on stigma and discrimination of key populations, – says PUD representative Sergey. – Partners’ meeting was a great opportunity to better understand the challenges that such key populations as LGBT and SW are facing. I was surprised by their professionalism and ability to work together.

Following the meeting, four organizations signed a Memorandum of Cooperation. In the document they agreed to work together to ensure the access of key populations to social, legal, psychological, medical and other services without discrimination, taking into account gender-specifications.

Irina Used Drugs and Became a Social Worker

irinaIrina Starkova started to use drugs in 1980’s in Osh city in Kyrgyzstan. She tried all the drugs that were available at that time starting with opium, ephedrine and finishing with heroin. She began to use drugs with her husband who was just released from prison.

In 1983, Irina gave birth to a son. “I was happy, but even that did not stop me from drug usage. I couldn’t imagine life without drugs, – Iryna says. – In 1990, I was imprisoned for the first time. After that, I was imprisoned for three times more. In total, I was in detention for almost 11 years, and it was all for the drug use.”

Thus, her son grew up mostly without his mother. Irina’s parents were raising him up. In 2000, she was visited by a specialist from the AIDS Center. He took her blood for HIV testing, and a week later Irina got to know that she was HIV positive. At that time, she had very little information about her diagnosis. “I didn’t know how to live and was afraid of people and relatives condemn, – she remembers. – But I began to shoot up even more drugs. I thought that I will die soon because of HIV…”

Nine years ago, when she was released from prison for the last time, her mom and son got to know that Irina was HIV positive. Their reaction was very unpleasant: Irina’s son said that he did not need a mother, and that she was his shame, and her mother was afraid to live with her in the same apartment. Therefore, Irina was forced to leave to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

In Bishkek she also found heroin, and it all lasted until she went to rehabilitation in NGO “Ranar” where she got helped. “I don’t use drugs for 9 years already, – she says. – In 2009, I was tested for HIV one more time and I found out that I am healthy and I have no positive status. They explained me that this was an erroneous result. I did not know whether to laugh or cry, because all these years were a nightmare for me. What would have my life been if I knew that I was not sick…”

When Irina went back to Osh, she visited women center “Podruga” (“Girlfriend” in Russian) to receive their services. “Podruga” was established to combat HIV, AIDS and STIs in the Kyrgyz Republic among vulnerable groups. The organization is also is active in HIV/AIDS advocacy and human rights. Now, for three years already, Irina is working in the organization as a social worker. She helps women who use drugs.