"Stars against AIDS" in Eastern Europe

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"Stars against AIDS" in Eastern Europe

19 May 2008

Tatiana Lazareva, TV Presenter and one
of the 25 women from Russia and Ukraine
who are participating in the “Stars against
AIDS” campaign.
Photo credit: Serge Golovach

“If in my country I have fans that listen to me, I am ready to endlessly tell them about HIV prevention and how it is wrong to discriminate against people living with HIV,” said Tatiana Lazareva, TV Presenter and one of the 25 women from Russia and Ukraine who are participating in the “Stars against AIDS” campaign organized by UNAIDS.

This is an unprecedented project to tackle stigma and discrimination in the Eastern Europe region. UNAIDS has brought together a group of successful women from Russia and Ukraine to help dispel the taboos and prejudice that often surround AIDS and to reduce discrimination against people living with HIV. Female celebrities from the artistic, media and sports communities have joined their talents and voices to ensure a proactive response to the AIDS epidemic.

Twenty-five famous women agreed to be photographed by the well-known photographer Serge Golovach who offered his services to the campaign for free. Through an exhibition of these portraits, the project aims to raise awareness about AIDS, increase the dissemination of HIV information and to reduce stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV.

“At first I was reluctant to participate in this project as I hardly knew anything about the scale of the HIV epidemic in my country and had never came across HIV in my daily life,” said actress Dina Korzun.  “I thought that closing my eyes to it would be the simplest thing to do. However, I found it was far more important to make an effort and search for information. I then realized that the major challenge of this disease is ignorance, and hence, intolerance,” she added.

Dina Korzun, Actress, Co-founder, Give
Life Charity Fund
Photo credit: Serge Golovach

The exhibition opened on May 15 and can be seen at the Stella Art Foundation in Moscow. The opening was attended by Elena Khanga and Maria Arbatova - two of the celebrities that have participated in the project - along with representatives from the Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development, the UNAIDS Programme Coordinator in Russia and the heads of UN agencies in the country. The exhibition is expected to tour Russia and Ukraine throughout 2008. A selection of the portraits will also be published as a 2009 calendar which will be launch at this year’s World AIDS Day.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia have faced significant increases in the numbers of new HIV infections in recent years. An estimated 150 000 people were newly infected with HIV in 2007 bringing the number of people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to 1.6 million compared to 630 000 in 2001, an increase of 150%. Nearly 90% of newly reported HIV diagnoses in 2006 were from two countries: the Russian Federation (66%) and Ukraine (21%). Furthermore, up to 40% of all new infections throughout the region were women.

“This project is important because it encourages greater public discussion around AIDS.  We have seen in many other countries that when there is more public awareness of AIDS, HIV prevention programs work more effectively and there is greater support for people living with HIV. The 25 women who are part of this project are helping make this kind of public discussion possible.  We are very grateful for their engagement and support,” said Lisa Carty, UNAIDS Programme Coordinator of the Russian Federation.