The Andrey Rylkov Foundation

ARF is a grass-roots organization with a mission to promote and develop humane drug policy based on tolerance, protection of health, dignity and human rights. We use 4 key strategies: advocacy, human rights watchdog, service provision and capacity-building of affected communities.
Nov 4, 2014

We need to change our fundraising strategy!

Health and legal aid to Moscow drug users
Health and legal aid to Moscow drug users

Dear supporters!

We have to share one important decision with you. After 2.5 years we decided to deactivate the project aimed at collecting money for the outreach bus. We will use the same money to support our daily outreach work with drug users, buy prevention materials and print information. The reason for our decision is that while initially the campaign was very energetic and it helped us to reach to wide audience with not only fundraising but also drug policy message, in 2.5 years we have only achieved 30% of the set target – 20K out of 60.000USD needed to buy a minibus. At the same time, the Russian economy is going through a period of destabilization and falling of the ruble – just in couple last month the ruble price compare to dollar has fallen by over 25%

Since we receive all your donations from the GlobalGiving in roubles, and this money sits on our bank account, as we cannot spend it before we reach the 60K target, the value of your donation is rapidly falling. That is why we decided to close the bus project, use the money for syringes, condoms, ointments and other prevention materials and start a new project with more flexible target (we will be collecting for prevention materials only and with the condition that we will be able to use the money on the monthly basis, unlike now).  All the re-curring donations will be transferred to the new project.

The bus idea was beautiful, but at the moment it looks not too realistic. We have also written to Volkswagen in Germany, asking for in-kind donation, but didn't hear anyting back. If you have great ideas how we can get this bus, please let us know!

Meanwhile, all your donations will be well placed and will help us to carry out daily work with drug users in Moscow. I attach a short report on the first year of our great new initiative -  Integrating legal aid into the core of our health work


With warm regards and heartily thanks for your support!


Anya sarang


The pilot Street Lawyers project proved to be a very important and successful initiative, which helped us to bring our street, work with people who use drugs and are vulnerable to or living with HIV to a new level.  The concept of our Street Lawyers project is to add on to our health harm reduction activities with the component of legal aid to our participants. In this, we aim at minimizing involvement of professional lawyers but rather at training outreach workers and project participants (drug users, affected by injustice) to gain understanding of legal issues and skills of legal representation.

Just in one year our case managers and outreach workers gained significant experience in several areas: interviewing people and identifying legal problems; representing people and helping them to represent themselves before all level of authority – from head doctors of medical institutions to judges in courts. To achieve that we organized training for outreach workers to gain legal skills and to be able to help participants represent their interests and also enable participants to defend their rights. By now we are fully convinced that legal representation should be a core part of harm reduction activities – as important as health – as injustice, over-incarceration, violations of human rights and human dignity are great harms of the War on drugs that ruin peoples lives, health, dignity and integrity.

From July 1st to September 31, 2014 we have continued to carry out daily outreach visits to the streets of Moscow to meet with people who use drugs. By the end of the project we had a team of street workers consisting of 16 outreach workers, two case managers (one of them focuses specifically on women), two medical workers and 4 lawyers (all came into the team as volunteers and continue to support the legal aspect of work) and one lawyer from Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network who helps the legal team and provided several trainings for the outreach team. The outreach coordinators compiles weekly schedule depending on availability of the outreach members who select evenings of the week that are convenient for them and work in pairs. Also sometimes unpaid volunteers and journalists join the pairs. The visits last about 1-2 hours or as long as it takes to give out all the materials that the outreachers can carry in their backpacks.

In total from July 1, 2013 to Sept 31, 2014 we had 3042 outreach contacts with drug users of them 807 contacts with women. We encountered 1325 new project participants (375 women) and provided prevention materials (98178 needles and syringes, condoms, alco-swaps, ointments, bandages, vitamins, 2585 ampules of Naloxone to prevent overdose deaths – and since June, 2014 we have received 227 reports of lifes saved by Naloxone!) carried out testing and counselling for HIV and hepatitis C on demand and provided 890 street consultations: 31 consultations on legal issues; 261 consultations on post-injection complications; 115 consultations and referrals on HIV and hepatitis testing and counselling; 377 on overdose prevention and management; 137 on drug addiction treatment; as well as referral to medical and social services in Moscow. The prevention materials are purchased from co-funding.  

Some people asked for more specific assistance and our case managers worked to help them on their issues. As we started implementation of the legal aid component, our outreach consultations and case management started to concentrate more and more on legal issues encountered by the participants and utilize more and more legal tools and instruments.

In addition to street work we also carried out trainings and seminars – both for the team members as we had to learn a lot of new information on legal matters and advocacy, and new members needed to learn on health issues as well.

The usual format of the seminars for participants is mini – trainings for up to 10 people (usually 6-7). Since we don't have a regular space, we organize these mini trainings at participants’ homes or at small cafes in the localities where we do outreach. We have organized several separate seminars for women, focusing on women issues. We have carried out 27 seminars (using LSF and co-funding money). 9 of them were on legal issues. In total 151 people were trained. We have organized three large trainings for the team focused specifically on legal issues and led by our partner from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. We have also organized several seminars for legal specialists (in legal clinics) and one seminar on HIV for police in one of the localities of our outreach work (Marjino).

On top of legal counselling and case management we empower participants by the means of providing information: we have printed a brochure “Law and drugs” and 4 issues of our Newspaper for drug users “Shlyapa i bayan” which has a strong focus on legal issues and legal empowerment. We also regularly publish reports on our work and success stories on our social networks which are frequented by drug users from Moscow and other cities.

The pilot phase of the project clearly showed that despite of individual approach to support specific cases, street lawyers practice tends to spread to a wider audience through people, which cases have followed. On the one hand, clients share their experience and recommend street lawyers. On the other - knowledge and skills that clients obtained through this interaction are transmitted within the community, to other drug users. Thus, the project gradually covers a fairly large audience, developing trust and understanding of the fact that drug users are worthy of respect and justice, are able to act independently and to help each other. The success of this project has also inspired people from other regions and education on Street Lawyers modality has been included as part of the national proposal to the Global Fund. We have invited a sociologist Alexandra Dmitrieva from St. Petersburg State University who have studied and evaluated the pilot project. The evaluation report is expected by the end of November 2014 and it will be widely distributed to our partners and other harm reduction and human rights organizations in Russia and EECA region.

Plans for future: We will continue to provide legal help for most disadvantages people who use drugs and continue practice oriented training for our outreach workers and volunteers in order to provide them with more legal instruments, skills and knowledge. We also plan to share our experience with harm reduction services in other regions of Russia which will be supported by the Global Fund Program in Russia for 2015-2017.  We also plan to continue cooperation with police and health authorities by way of providing police officers of district police detachments with basic knowledge of HIV prevention and human rights of people who use drugs. We already had one of such an experience.



Aug 19, 2014

People who made me wiser


If we tell other people stories we usually tell stories of our drug using participants. But today we decided to share a story of our medical volunteer Pavel. For me this story was really moving - sometimes we just take the greatness of our team members for granted and we dont notice how we change as we do our work - how we change our attitude, how we become wiser and kinder, how we grow together. Sometimes people are sceptical about our work - even the medical professionals. They think that drug users should only be listened to when they come to a clinic - while they rarely do, for obvious reasons - people are too scared, to stigmatised, to untrustful. They dont often face support and understanding in the medical institutions, especially in Russia they dont. Pavels story shows how he learnt the importance of going out to the street and meeting people where they are. How this experience contributed to his personal and professional growth. We are really lucky to have such a great friend and colleague working with us and we are happy and proud to share his story with you. Maybe you can also pass it on to your friends who are doctors, nurses and medical workers and they can learn something new from their colleague! Maybe they will also want to support our work with a small donation or a kind word of solidarity!

WIth love, Anya and ARF outreach team


People who made me wiser


I’ve heard about Andrey Rylkov Foundation for the first time in June, 2011. My ex-professor from Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy called me and said: “Pasha, I’ve met at a conference some people who worked with street drugs users and they invited me to join them during several outreaches. As a clinician I was interested and could not resist, but as a woman I am a bit scared. I know you will not leave me alone, you are too gentle and professional for that, aren’t you?”. The question have been asked in a right manner, so I had no chance to refuse.

At that time I have already graduated from medical college and academy with honorary diploma of advanced practice nurse, worked in forensic psychiatry hospital and as a flight nurse and was continuing my medical education on the II course of MD program. But professor’s call made me thinking of what do I actually know about street drugs users when they are outside of the hospital? What are their routine problems, how can they handle medical issues outside of medical facilities, how should I talk to them being without white coat and so forth. My medical schools taught me how to treat patients, but not how to deal with people from streets.

First outreach was anxious, but run smoothly and was full of discoveries. A huge group of people, living in the same city with me, but at the same time living in a parallel universe since being excluded from our society. People who live, make friends, find their love, brake up, get ill, due – on the street, sometimes work, sometimes steal to survive – back there on the street. Problems with police, healthcare, social care – all of that was absolutely new for me. Guys who are limited with medical care only because they have problems with documents. Foreigners from ex-USSR who are blocked out from medical services. Pregnant girls who cannot get medical care in hospital because of unavoidable abstinence caused by absence of officially banned substitution therapy – that was a shocking reality which I faced. Why I never saw it before? A parallel universe indeed.

ARF itself was a separate discovery. Clinicians, social workers, psychologists, journalists, car technicians, philologists, ex drug users, street drug users, students, - enthusiastic people of different education, income, social, religious and political viewpoints working and spending time on the street, supporting project participants in hospitals, prisons, abroad. No old-fashioned management, no hierarchy, absolute financial transparence.

I really enjoyed my new friends, lifestyle and helping projects participants and members. I did my best to share with ARF team and participants with medical, hygiene and social information and skills I could. But in fact I myself learned much more from my new friends both from the street and ARF. In order to get more of up-to-date skills and info I’ve applied on behalf of ARF and won in 2012 course of Integrated Treatment and Care of Injecting Drug Users at Open Medical Institute & Open Society Foundations (Salzburg, Austria).

Now I have also became a source of information for my medical colleagues who worked in hospitals, city ambulance service, outpatient clinics. Having my myths being broken, I became a myth breaker for others. Not only clinicians, even some members of my family were strictly against of that kind of my activity. I am glad that ARF taught me how to open one’s eyes on situation with drugs in Russia and make other people understand the problems.

Addiction is not a sentence, and good family and social well-being have lifetime warranty not for everyone. So many stories of people who are dead or who are still fighting for their live, health, families, children, beloved ones – they make me feel older and wiser.

Through Andrey Rylkov Foundation I received access to new epidemiological data, new guidelines and recommendations for treatment and monitoring for TB, HIV, HCV, HBV and other related infections. Thanks to ARF I have attended in 2013 INTEGRATED APPROACHES IN TREATMENT OF HIV AND RELATED CO-INFECTIONS (TB/HCV) seminar hosted by The European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG) in Saint-Petersburg.

Now I am at the VI course, MD is 1.5 years away. But life with Andrey Rylkov Foundation also helped me to find myself in Medicine – I would like to specialize myself in Infections Diseases after I get my MD diploma. ARF can do much more, and I hope that those who support ARF – our partners and donors – will keep doing that. This is a good karma.



Giving out syringes and warmth from heart to heart
Giving out syringes and warmth from heart to heart
Bringing health advise out to the street
Bringing health advise out to the street
Providing  health training to other team members
Providing health training to other team members
May 15, 2014

No place for needle litter

Anya and Vova
Anya and Vova

Dear friends,

Today we decided to share with you a report on a recent Subbotnik -  when ARF and our friends and participants drug users decided to help clean the city from the used needles and syringes. One of the greatest problems for our work is that there is no recycling system for used syringes - and we decided to look for the solutions to help clean the city.  This article was written by a friendly journalist who attended the Subbotnik. 


Activists of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice and participants of the Harm Reduction Moscow project finished the last step of a used syringe collection campaign in several areas of Moscow. On Tuesday April 29 Maxim Malyshev, the campaign coordinator, brought the collected syringes to the Central Scientific Institute of Epidemiology of the Russian Federal Service for Consumer Surveillance to Protect Consumer Rights (Rospotrebnadzor) that promised to dispose of those syringes.

 The Foundation’s employees explained why they were collecting needles on Moscow streets and how difficult it was to get the authorities to assist in the disposal process. Saturday evening, employees of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation (ARF) gathered close to the subway station Maryino. They explained this choice thus: “This pharmacy sells Tropicamide freely. Drug users often inject the stuff here.” Tropicamide is the name of a brand of eyedrops; it is a pharmaceutical drug used by drug users. It must be sold on prescription, and pharmacies must document sales. At the appointed time an elderly man with a bundle came up to ARF’s employees. It was Sasha, a drug user and a long-time friend of the Foundation. “Here’s what I’ve collected - about 40 needles, not one less,” he said proudly, giving them his bundle. In response he got medicines, clean syringes, and condoms.

 “In principle, this is how a harm reduction program should work; those programs are banned in our country. In other countries drug users can freely exchange their syringes for new ones, which helps reduce risks – for example, HIV. Nevertheless, here this practice is prohibited,” said Timur Madatov, ARF’s lawyer. ARF’s campaign called Snowdrop was assisted by two volunteers – 38-year old Rita and a 32-year old man in sagging jeans and large sneakers; he introduced himself as Ilya the Streetcar. Both have been using drugs for several years. Ilya, whose parents live close to the subway station, showed us where there most of the syringes could be found. Used “thorns”, as Rita calls them, are scattered around apartment buildings, along pedestrian walkways, on the lawn. Asya, an employee of ARF, handed out rubber gloves. She had long metal tweezers and a 1.3 gallon water bottle used to store needles. Ilya took everyone to his building, saying hello to his neighbours on the way. ARF’s employees got to the 10th floor and went to the stairs where the cleaning operation was to take place. They saw used syringes everywhere: on the floor, hidden inside radiators and walls. “Rita, don’t you touch the needle,” Asya asked. She was watching the volunteer remove a syringe from a hole in the wall with her bare hands. Rita objected and continued. “But there are different types of hepatitis,” Asya insisted.

The activists kept finding used syringes virtually at every stairwell. On the second floor, a sign was spray-painted on the wall: “This place isn’t for junkies.” Timur Madatov, ARF’s lawyer, explains: “We wanted to begin disposing of syringes a few years ago. We called many offices and in each of them they told us we should contact another office. Then we realized that calling them was useless, and began sending out official requests. Some of those offices even took the time to answer our requests.” The Foundation sent one of the letters to Infectious Hospital No. 2 which refused to accept the collected syringes and suggested that ARF talk to the Moscow Health Department. The department was not willing to dispose of used syringes, specifying that medical waste should be disposed of “in a centralized fashion” by a special licensed organization. “According to the current sanitary regulations, used needles and syringes collected on the streets of Moscow during the campaign are not classified as medical waste,” the department responded. In its official response it emphasized that “the order of disposing of household garbage in Moscow is not within the Department’s mandate.” The Moscow Centre for Epidemiology suggested that ARF address “specialized organizations that recycle and remove medical waste,” but it did not specify which organizations those are. The Foundation also appealed to the Moscow Health Department’s Methodological Unit for Epidemiology, the Moscow AIDS Centre, and the Central Scientific Institute of Epidemiology. Finally, Rospotrebnadzor’s Central Scientific Institute of Epidemiology agreed to dispose of the needles collected on Moscow’s streets. It recommended that the activists pack the syringes in a heat-resistant plastic bag and a cardboard box. As the institute explained afterward, these measures were recommended in order to protect the Foundation’s employees.

ARF President Anya Sarang explained: “It’s crazy that we had to spend so much time to find an office that could dispose of the syringes. In civilized countries, this wouldn’t be a problem – there are needle exchange programs where drug users can pick up special containers and return the collected needles; this isn’t complicated. They come to harm reduction programs because they need syringes and communication.” According to her, in some countries such containers and disposal boxes are considered standard practice. “My friend saw these special containers for syringes in Australian Parliament. It’s strange that in Moscow it took us two years to find a way to get rid of the syringes in an organized fashion. I wouldn’t even mention what regular drug users have to go through,” Sarang said.

The Snowdrop campaign events took place close to several subway stations - in Maryino, Tekstilschiki, and Pervomayskaya. According to the participants, in some areas “there were not enough bottles to collect the needles.” Maxim Malyshev, the campaign organizer, said that Rospotrebnadzor’s Central Scientific Institute of Epidemiology promised to help with syringe disposal in the future. “Syringes are considered dangerous waste, and they can’t be thrown out with the garbage. However, getting HIV through those syringes is highly unlikely – the virus is not very tough, and it requires many conditions to penetrate our bodies. But getting hepatitis C is more likely; about 80 percent of drug users have it. It’s much tougher, and just a small amount of the virus is needed to get infected. But objectively, the aesthetical inconvenience of seeing used syringes is a bigger problem for people,“ Malyshev said. He was planning to continue collecting medical waste in the future. Malyshev said: “Since we have found a place where we can bring used syringes we can start collecting them regularly. But we need to find a place where we could store our inventory and where it will be convenient for our volunteers to come. Even regular residents can participate if they want; they only need to tell us where there are a lot of needles. And we can help depending on our abilities.”

Syringe carpet in Tekstilshiki park
Syringe carpet in Tekstilshiki park
ARF bag
ARF bag
Asya syringe mining
Asya syringe mining
Tekstilshiki treasures
Tekstilshiki treasures

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