“We applied to the Emergency Support Fund* when we ran out of HIV and other viruses prevention materials that help to stop the spread of infections among the key populations, including people who use drugs” – Yulia Lomachenko, Invisible People Project Director from Naberezhnye Chelny, says. “We used the Fund’s grant to restore the reserve of instruments, continue preventive work among the key population groups in our city and help dozens of people.”
Peer to Peer
Our main purpose for this project was to preserve health of our clients and to safeguard them from getting HIV. We conducted our work in an easy access center “A STEP FORWARD”, as well as during outreach trips to meet key populations. We provided services that were adapted according to the needs of our clients and that were in high demand. Peer-to-peer approach has become one of our discoveries. Thanks to this approach, we were able to achieve high results and prove effectiveness of our activities for the key populations.
There have always been difficulties
We’ve always faced certain difficulties during many years of our work. Mainly, the deficit of resources and finances allocated for the prevention of diseases among key population groups. We also face difficulties on the part of our clients. The majority of our clients are HIV-positive people and people from the key population groups (people who use drugs, ex-convicts, sex workers), who have a whole batch of problems related to everyday routines, medical care, legal and psychological issues. Because of it, prevention is not their priority, therefore, it becomes a difficulty for us.
We searched for “invisible people”
Within the framework of the Emergency Support Fund project outreach workers redirected representatives of the key populations to the social workers in our organisation, involved in the social support programme. Clients of the social support programme received individual step-by-step assistance in solving complex problems, for example, food supply, re-issuance of documents, access to HIV treatment, finding a job, etc. During the first meeting, our social worker created a plan of solving the client’s problems. Having covered primary needs, we got a chance to discuss the questions of health support, prevention, changing risk behaviours in relation to HIV and TB. We wanted to show the “invisible people” to the society and the state, that they exist, that they are part of our community and that they have equal rights just like any other citizen of our city and republic. These people just found themselves in difficult life circumstances and at this moment they need more support and help.
Working with double effort during Covid
The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to work with double effort, because the representatives of our target groups found themselves in an extremely vulnerable position in relation to the society in general. Due to the pandemic, we had to completely revise all the directions of our work. For example, we set up a hot call line to give people all the necessary information about the work and services of the medical organisations, to consult about the prevention of socially significant diseases, and to invite a social worker to your home.
A girl named Anna once came to us. Some time ago she was released from prison. When she returned to her hometown, she faced some challenges. She had no place to stay and sleep, she was starving, didn’t wash for several weeks, she was using drugs and felt very desperate. After listening to Anna and understanding her primary needs, our social worker started to act. Together with Anna they created a plan describing in detail what necessary actions she had to take in order to solve her many problems. The social worker also organised private fundraising for her, and as a result we were able to rent a hostel room for her. Anna articulated her desire to stop using drugs, restore herself, find a job, rent an apartment and be happy. After we covered her primary needs, we accompanied Anna to the AIDS Center, provided assistance with temporal registration and received ARVT medicines for her. The next step was to help her enter a rehab center. As of today, Anna completed a full course of rehabilitation, found a job, was able to rent a room and resumed communication with her child. Anna’s example is one of 21 success cases that we were able to accomplish under the Invisible People project.
A look into the future
The Emergency Support Fund has helped our organisation during a very difficult time for us, and this work produced certain results and nurtured faith in a better future. We are very grateful to the Fund, and we will certainly look for opportunities to continue our activities in the future, because people, who need our help, didn’t disappear.
Emergency Support Fund for Key Populations in the EECA region (ESF), led by AFEW International and Aidsfonds since 2018, strives for a comprehensive response to emergencies threatening HIV service provision for key populations in the EECA region and supports activities ranging from advocacy and prevention to treatment and care in terms of HIV and co-infections.
The Emergency Support Fund aims to:
- Decrease the annual number of new HIV infections in the EECA region;
- Ensure access to treatment for all people living with HIV in the EECA region;
- Offer better and more effective funding for the response to the HIV epidemics in EECA countries.
Since its start in 2018, ESF has received over 600 applications from 10 countries in EECA: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, of which over 230 were funded.
2021 is the final year of ESF operations. The Fund is no longer accepting applications.