Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice
Русский

Anya Sarang gave a speech at AIDS 2018 Protest march in Amsterdam

The Protest march is a tradition of the International AIDS Conference, meant to raise awareness for the multitude of issues that complicate the fight against HIV, such as lack of political will, financial resources and access to HIV blocker drugs. The marchers also make their voice heard for the difficulties that those living with HIV still face: discrimination, stigma, violations of human rights. It takes place on the eve of the conference. This year’s march was themed “Towards Zero Together”.

Anya Sarang, the President of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice, gave a speech at a closure of the Protest march this year in Amsterdam. We publish the text of her speech here. Photo and video by Rights Reporter Foundation.

————

Good afternoon

My country is the only one in Europe with a rising rate of HIV. While most of the countries globally have been able to get their epidemics under control, in Russia, ten people get infected every hour, 100.000 new cases were registered just last year and almost 32 thousand people have died of AIDS. The main cause of death is tuberculosis. The number of people with both HIV and TB keeps growing, Russia is among top three countries with the largest absolute numbers of drug resistant TB and one of the 4 countries with the lowest treatment success rate.

Are there any particular reasons for such a dramatic health crisis? It is not a result of bad fate or bad climate, it is a direct result of the government’s complete inaction, sabotage of public health interests and refusal to provide effective prevention and treatment programs to the most affected people: people who inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men.

Instead of access to effective evidence based HIV and TB services and drug treatment what the government offers to people who use drugs is repression, mass incarceration, torture in treatment and law enforcement and endless humiliation. Prisons are filled with people who use drugs — over a forth of all prisoners in Russia are punished for drug offences, vast majority for simply using or possessing drugs. Forty percent of women in prisons are there because of drugs. For people, whose immune system is weakened by drug dependence and HIV, imprisonment easily leads to TB infection and AIDS  and thereby it effectively equals to death sentence.

Prisons are not a “solution” for the health crisis. We need the governments to support evidence based, human rights based programs in Russia, in EECA region and all over the world. In Russia, effective and evidence driven interventions such as opioid substitution therapy are still illegal. Needle and syringe programs are considered threat to the national drug strategy. The organizations that provide these live saving services despite the government opposition, such as my own, are labeled as “Foreign Agents”. We are not Foreign Agents, we are communities affected by HIV, we are people who lost their loves, friends, colleagues to AIDS and who don’t want to lose more! Despite the oppression of the criminal government we will be providing live saving services to people who need them most. And in order to do that we need your support.

We will never be able to achieve zero new infections if we don’t put all our effort into achieving zero criminalization. And we will only be able to do so if we can shift the drug policy paradigm towards decriminalization of people who use drugs, legalization of drugs and regulation of the drug markets. People who are in prisons for drug use and possession all over the world have to be freed and rehabilitated legally, socially and economically. People cannot be criminalized for their behavior, sexual preferences, labor preferences or what substances they choose to use. Today I would like to support the key populations networks from my region campaigning against criminalization. Protect freedom, dignity and human rights of all affected by HIV. Chase the virus not people!



Category Categories: Voices from Russia | Tag Tags: | Comments 1 comment »

Comments

One comment to “Anya Sarang gave a speech at AIDS 2018 Protest march in Amsterdam”

  1. aem says:

    *ill putin. he has the potential to stop/reduce these deaths and has done for many years. I say it is time for violent revolution against thatcrook

Leave a comment: