A site I spend too much of my day reading, RHRealityCheck.org, is quite invested in covering the 2012 International AIDS Conference set to begin Sunday here in DC, and has two great posts up today from women writing about the challenges facing IV drug users in Ukraine and Russia. Viktoria Lintsova, an activist, mother, former drug user, and person living with HIV, writes on the incredibly restrictive regulations limiting access to opiate substitution treatment drugs in Ukraine. Irina Teplinskaya, who spent 30 years dependent on drugs, 16 years in Russian prison for drug-related offenses, and is living with AIDS, criticizes the Russian government’s drug policies, including the amount of money invested in prosecuting drug crimes rather than preventing HIV and hepatitis transmission among drug users (needle exchanges are illegal in Russia, as they are classified as “drug propaganda”), and the ban on opium substitution treatment. Even given these dehumanizing policies and Russia’s continued attempts to downplay their HIV problem, Teplinskaya claims that Russia was praised as a leader in the region’s fight against HIV at last October’s MDG-6 Forum in Moscow, a high-level event focusing on the region’s progress toward the sixth UN Millennium Development Goal. Maybe this isn’t so surprising – after all, I can think of some other countries that consider themselves leaders, but continue to spend outrageous amounts of money incarcerating drug users, and allow fears of “propaganda” promoting immoral behavior to guide policy on serious public health issues.
RHRealityCheck does great work covering a broad spectrum of reproductive health-related issues, and it’s wonderful to see people from the former Soviet Union, where these issues are particularly acute, getting a platform there. It’s extra-wonderful that these two pieces were written by women giving voice to the huge marginalized population of drug users in the region. You should definitely give them a read. May they garner many page-views!