Reportage

Miss Universe calls on young Russians to get tested for HIV

06 April 2006

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Wearing one of the T-shirts created in the “Designers against AIDS” project, Natalie Glebova, Miss Universe 2005, helped kick start Russia’s Fashion Week 2006/07 and to raise AIDS awareness.

This was Natalie’s first trip back to her birthplace since she moved to Canada at the age of 12. She felt AIDS was too important an issue to miss an opportunity to talk with Russia’s young people about HIV.

“I urge young Russians, who are disproportionately affected by the epidemic, to help prevent the spread of HIV” Natalie said. “By getting tested, learning more about HIV and how to prevent transmission, and being tolerant towards people living with HIV, everyone can make a contribution in the AIDS response.”

Natalie’s recent three-day visit to Moscow included a round table discussion with experts on HIV testing, meetings with policy makers at the State Duma of the Russian Federation, discussions with representatives of the community of people living with HIV, as well as meetings with Russian celebrities and opinion leaders in business and media.
 
“Misinformation about AIDS, along with stigma and discrimination, is one of the greatest challenges that we must overcome to prevent further spread of the epidemic and improve the lives of people living with HIV,” she said.

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Increasing awareness about AIDS has been the official cause of the Miss Universe competition since 1998. In 2005 Natalie Glebova began her reign with a trip to South Africa where she publicly took an HIV test, highlighting the importance of knowing one’s HIV status. Since then she has continued raising awareness and urging young people – especially young women– to know their HIV status. 

“According to the latest UNAIDS estimates, up to 1.4 million people in the Russian Federation are living with HIV. “A striking fact is their young age. 80% of people living with HIV in Russia are under 30, and the proportion of women among new HIV cases is growing fast” said Bertil Lindblad, UNAIDS Representative in the Russian Federation. By contrast, in North America and Western Europe, only 30% of all people infected are under 30.

During her stay in Moscow, Natalie met with people living with HIV to discuss challenges they face and means for improving the situation. She took a public HIV test and attended a confidential consultation at a Moscow clinic, to raise awareness about the importance of access to voluntary and confidential testing and counseling services. She also held meetings with policy makers to discuss how to improve access for Russians to these crucial services.

“Today, information is the only vaccine against HIV. Natalie’s visit to Russia makes a very tangible contribution to raising awareness, reducing stigma and, ultimately, saving lives,” said Avet Khachatrian, Director of Programs in Russia for Transatlantic Partners against AIDS. “Her dedication to the global AIDS response encourages public dialogue about HIV and strengthens the cross-sectoral cooperation that is essential to effectively respond to the epidemic,”

“The fight against AIDS in Russia is a fight to save a generation of young people at risk of getting infected” said Mikhail Rukavishnikov, Director of Community of People Living with HIV. “Natalie is a role model for young people in Russia who may be not aware of the need of getting tested. She is an inspiration and a critical voice for AIDS awareness, tolerance towards people living with HIV and prevention in Russia and worldwide.”

Natalie Glebova also reached out to mobilize the creative community and business circles in Russia to actively join the AIDS response, and raised awareness through media interviews as a spokesperson for the cause.

The visit to Russia was organized by UNAIDS, Transatlantic Partners Against AIDS, The Global Health Council and The Miss Universe Organization.

Related links
Transatlantic Partners Against AIDS
The Global Health Council
Miss Universe Organization

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