Feature story

AIDS project helps communities in Russia to take actions to protect themselves

10 May 2011

From left: Jean-Louis lamboray, Director of The Constellation, one of the facilitators of the AIDS Competence project; Sveta Izambaeva, Niayaz Illiasovich Galiullin, Chief Doctor of the Kazan’s AIDS Center; Dr Denis Broun, Director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Europe

"You should not expect a solution to come from the outside. You need to look for it in the very communities and their people,” says the director of the international non-governmental organization The Constellation, Jean-Louis Lamboray during a recent presentation of the AIDS Competence project, in Kazan, Russia.

The objective of this initiative is to mobilize local responses to AIDS by promoting awareness within communities of their own strengths and capacities and facilitating the exchange of experiences within the communities. To accomplish this objective, the AIDS Competence project uses an approach called SALT— Stimulate, Acknowledge, Listen and Transfer—where trained facilitators visit communities to help them identify needs, formulate ideas and to form a leadership team from representatives of the community.

“People have enough wisdom and understanding of the risks. Our challenge is to encourage them to respond to the epidemic. Many communities and people are scattered and we have to help them form the right connections and networks,” added Mr Lamboray.

You should not expect a solution to come from the outside. You need to look for it in the very communities and their people

Jean-Louis Lamboray, Director of the international NGO The Constellation

The meetings between communities and facilitators in Kazan show that when, a community openly acknowledges the risk of HIV, it can take action and mobilize support from within.

“I am a mother and grandmother,” said Irina, who took part in the meeting. “I worry about my family and want to know what I can do to protect them from HIV."

"If we want to get rid of stigma, we have to start from small groups, at home, at work,” said Natalia, whose husband Sergei uses drugs and is HIV positive. “Let’s have a discussion about it with the families in our neighborhood.”   

AIDS response in the Russian Federation

Eastern Europe remains the only region in the world where the epidemic is still on the rise. According to the Federal AIDS Centre in Russia, there are about 160 new registered cases of HIV infection daily in the country and more than 590,000 people are living with HIV. HIV transmission in the country is mainly driven by injecting drug use but heterosexual transmission is on the rise.

“The mobilization of the local response is critical for keeping the HIV epidemic under control in Russia as the lack of funding for HIV prevention programmes at the federal level may cause a serious setback in results achieved in the AIDS response,” said Dr Denis Broun, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Europe and Central Asia.

UNAIDS seeks to encourage community activism in the country and so it concentrates its advocacy work at decentralized levels for example by linking municipal authorities and civil society groups to help them share experiences and consolidate best practices around HIV prevention.