“Artists Against AIDS” help fight stigma and discrimination in Russia
17 November 2008
On 11 November UNAIDS in the Russian Federation launched the initiative “Artists Against AIDS”. The initiative, aims to decrease stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV while raising funds for an orphanage that cares for HIV positive children.
Twenty-three artists, including several well known Russian painters as well as artists from Greece, the Ukraine, the Unites States of America and Spain contributed their works for the exhibition and sale which is being held at the Central House of Artists from 11 – 20 November 2008. More than 200 guests attended the exhibition’s opening ceremony, including representatives from the private sector, the artistic and diplomatic communities, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Lisa Carty, UNAIDS Country Coordinator opened the exhibition noting that, “In a country like Russia, that has such a deep respect for the arts, it sends a powerful signal when prominent artists speak out against stigma and discrimination. We know that this can make a real difference in mobilizing broader public awareness and support.”
Participating artists welcomed the event as an opportunity to speak about AIDS to help people overcome their prejudices and misconceptions about the disease, as well as to directly help children impacted by HIV.
Sergey Tsigal, one of the twenty three artists who donated their work for the exhibition said, “While I am not a rich man I consider this type of charity project an essential part of my life. Artists can play an important role in the response to AIDS through their art work.”
The artists have donated 35 paintings and graphic works for the exhibition and sale and all proceeds will be provided to the Lomonosov Children’s Home in Leningrad region.
In Russia about 440,000 cases of HIV infection are officially registered; however, many Russian and international experts believe that the actual number of people living with HIV in the country could be closer to one million. Injecting drug use remains the main mode of transmission, but in recent years the percentage of women living with HIV has grown. In 2007, 44% of all new cases of HIV infection were among women.
The number of children born to women living with HIV has also increased. Even though special preventive therapy makes it possible to reduce a newborn’s risk of infection to a minimum, mother-to-child transmission of HIV continues to occur in children during pregnancy, labour and delivery, or breastfeeding.
Good progress has been made in providing pregnant women with access to preventive treatment to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to their infants. However, in Russia today there are more than three thousand children who were infected at birth.
Among them, a significant number are abandoned children who are cared for in orphanages throughout the country.
Dr. Antonina Petrova, the Chief Doctor of the Lomonosov Orphanage, said that the exhibit and sale gave her an unprecedented opportunity to share with the public the situation of children living with or affected by HIV and for the public to understand that HIV positive children can lead happy, successful lives.