May 28, 2013

ARF: bring more human rights to the streets!

Free Margarita Charykova! Action of support
Free Margarita Charykova! Action of support

During the reporting period from January to June 2013 consistent work of the project went on. Outreach activities were carried out all week long. Every week we developed schedule of outreach visits, where geographic locations were tied to days of the week, this had positive impact on stability of the project and gaining trust of project clients. Thanks to this outreach workers can regularly find out and monitor requests of participants and the project participants can benefit from a stability factor – an important element in the unstable world of people who use drugs that has positive influence on their behavior.

Also a lot of attention is being paid to researching changes in the drug scene. Outreach workers regularly ask project participants about occurring changes and occasionally conduct exploratory outreach visits to new unknown locations, information about these new locations provided by the project participants. This allows keeping track of drug scene changes, help project participants and take action to respond to the drug scene changes.

During the reporting period outreach workers distributed syringes, needles, alcohol swabs, pregnancy tests, condoms etc. HIV and hepatitis testing was offered. Thanks to keeping track of the changing drug scene and trustful relationships with project participants outreach workers can promptly respond to changing needs of project clients.

The project team consists of experienced and caring staff members involved in the street outreach activities.  Volunteers interested in drug policy and outreach social work with project participants often join the project team. Several volunteers joined the project team and the Foundation. This openness allows learning new things and passing on experience and knowledge. Also the project is open to working with journalists, photographers and researchers from medical and social fields; this allows attracting attention of the general public to the problems of people who use drugs.

An important source of support and resource for our project is support provided by people who use drugs at the outreach work locations. At every outreach location there are people from the community with whom we build trustful and friendly relations, who provide connection between the project and the community in the area. This helps us stay informed about all changes in locations where we work and enables us to respond promptly to changes while we continue working there.

One of the main achievements is the evolving legal support component and human rights support to people who use drugs. Priority direction for the development of this project component is project staff providing these services during outreach work and for outreach workers to become ‘street lawyers’. We have already achieved very positive results: a good example is the case of Margarita Charykova who was convicted by the Federal drug control service on drug charges and was mistreated in prison while having a severe health condition. With ARF support – facilitating legal aid through a partner NGO Agora and organizing public action and pressure, Margarita was released from prison. That clearly shows the potential of the outreach workers in providing legal support and advice on legal issues and community resources. Also it should be noted that the project provides ongoing consultations on legal issues during the outreach work and ongoing search for partner organizations that can provide legal support to the project participants and staff. Meetings were carried out with the network Pilnet and representatives of the web portal Hand Help; cooperation was established with a hub of legal clinics in Moscow and together with our partners from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network we have carried out a lecture for students from different universities involved into the work of legal clinics. We hope to have long term fruitful cooperation.

An interesting achievement was participation in the project Narcophobia in the alliance with the famous poet Delfinov that allowed attracting attention of many representatives of the modern art community and creative intelligentsia. A series of public lectures on the repressive drug policy attracted attention of the public and facilitated discussions around these issues.

Another important achievement was a series of seminars on access to free hepatitis C treatment in 3 cities of Russia (Tver, Moscow, Yekaterinburg). These seminars focused on limited accessibility of hepatitis C treatment and on the possibility of defending in the court the right for access to treatment. As a result of these seminars attention was attracted to proactive actions of the community of patients with hepatitis C and potential legal actions. The seminars were recorded and a video will be produced to provide brief guidance on defending one’s right to access to hepatitis C treatment. This video will provide opportunities for people who could not participate in the seminars to learn more about this.

The project maintained cooperation with other organizations working in other fields and providing services complementary to our activities and working in the same field and providing other services important to our project participants. Among examples of successful cooperation we should emphasize our cooperation with the Federal AIDS Center. Thanks to established contacts with medical specialists in the Federal AIDS Center people who do not have Moscow registration can receive ARV treatment. Another example is cooperation with the tuberculosis clinic 5, where several project participants received and currently receive treatment. We cooperate with the organization Yasen that helps with referrals of our participants to the inpatient narcological clinics and with provision of outpatient narcological treatment.  Catholic Mother Teresa sisters’ shelter became an important partner for our project; they provide lodging, rehabilitation and socialization for our participants.

As mentioned above, community education is implemented with the resources provided by the community itself. Seminars on overdose prevention and HIV prevention were conducted. Community support in the organization of the trainings and seminars is a valuable resource for the project. These trainings and seminars are organized not in the office, but in locations where local community representatives live and meet: we meet in coffee shops or in apartments of our friends from the community. All this creates warm and trustful relationship with our project participants.

We were successful in securing funds for our Street lawyers project from the Levi Strauss Foundation, and we still have the money to pay for needles and other prevention materials through our Crystal of Hope Award. And we are still in the process of fundraising for our Bus through the GlobalGiving site - so if you want to help and further support us - please tell your friends about our work and ask them to donate and support our cause!!


with kind regards, ARF team 


Feb 19, 2013

Harm Reduction - Moscow 2012 report

A team of experienced and passionate outreach workers works with street drug users since 2009. Outreach workers regularly distribute syringes, condoms, naloxone, alcohol swabs, needles, pregnancy tests, and other materials and test participants for HIV and hepatitis. Outreach workers actively distribute brochures on hepatitis, HIV, overdose, medical services in Moscow, etc. We continued cooperation with "Narcotics Anonymous", which provided us with community newspapers and business cards and support groups’ schedule. Project participants can use our telephone "hot line" service to learn about changes in our schedule, request necessary materials and testing for HIV and hepatitis and receive consultations. A medical consultant participated in the outreach work regularly and a surgeon sees our participants upon request.


We have established productive relations with the drug users community. Some of our participants enthusiastically share our values and beliefs and actively involve their friends and acquaintances in the project activities. They distribute prevention materials, syringes and carry out secondary outreach activities.


With the support from Eurasian Harm Reduction Network/European Commission we started to provide targeted services to women who use drugs. This helped strengthen the project’s social support component, which includes referring and accompanying women in various medical facilities, referring them to medical specialists for consultations, providing support and distributing personal hygiene and sanitary products.


Also during the reporting period the project had many contacts with the media. We worked with correspondents from Big City, Moskovsky Komsomolets, Independent, Guardian, internet portal Open Space, Philanthropist, Belgian National Radio, and the Moscow State University student radio. We are always pleased to work with the media that cover our work and contribute to our mission - to develop humane drug policy in Russia.


Project results in 2012:


The number of participants/of them woman – 657/178

The number of contacts/with woman – 1726/373

The number of new participants in 2012/woman – 377/82

Number of syringes/needles – 56484/4130

Number of condoms - 2258

The number of HIV tests/ of them positive - 43/3

Number of referrals / consultations on drug dependence -  50

Number of referrals / consultations on HIV testing/ treatment - 42

Number of referrals / consultations post-injection complications -  96

Number of given vials of naloxone - 282



Social support


We provide social support to our participants including telephone consultations for participants seeking drug treatment and medical care, information about medical facilities’ schedules, required documents and requirements for admission to treatment programs.


We accompany our participants to various medical facilities, when they undergo in-patient treatment we provide them with food and other necessities and visit them regularly. With support of our outreach worker several participants received detoxification and rehabilitation services. Other participants, including participants from other cities, received medical support in relevant medical facilities including very serious surgeries.


Our social worker and medical consultant participate in the outreach activities every week; our participants can ask questions and receive advice and support directly from them. The project’s medical consultant educates participants on wound care including wound redressing skills training.


A new activity we added in this reporting period is the support of a psychologist – a trained member of our team- who carries out brief consultations during outreach and provides in-depth consultations and motivational interviews with our participants and their families.


Networking with institutions that provide medical and social services


We have established working relations with the Moscow Drug Treatment Clinic # 19. Until November 2011 we referred our participants seeking detoxification and rehabilitation services to the clinic. Outreach workers provided support to the participants undergoing treatment, visited and supplied food for these participants during their stay in the clinic. Unfortunately, “pink stubs” for hospitalizing our participants from other cities were cancelled in November 2011. Consequently, we can no longer refer our participants from other cities for detoxification, rehabilitation or other medical services and they have no place where they can receive rehabilitation as in other cities it is unavailable.


Successful cooperation was also established with the TB clinic #11, where several participants were undergoing treatment. We provide psychological and material support (food parcels, second hand clothes) to our participants and maintain contact with medical specialists.


The project established co-operation with the following organizations/specialists:


regional STI clinic: outreach workers refer project participants for anonymous STI testing;

"Salvation Army" Surgeon who consults us and works with our participants;

Epidemiological Research Institute of the Rospotrebnadzor; we referred people to their “school of patients” for people with hepatitis C and distributed their materials.

human rights organization "Agora": their Moscow-based lawyer several times provided legal advice to our participants and organized a seminar “How to behave during police detention”.


Educational activities for the project participants and employees


In 2012, the project organized four training sessions. Two trainings were organized for the project staff. Psychologist Viktor Bogomolov provided a session on team building, developing and implementing a common vision. The second training on using narrative approaches in the street outreach work, communication with participants and motivating them for positive changes was very helpful for professional development.


The other two trainings were organized for project participants. Together with Ilnur Sharipov a lawyer from the organization “Agora” we discussed what our participants should do if they are being detained. We discussed various models of behavior and avoiding conflicts with law enforcement representatives. The other training was on HIV, ways of transmission, minimizing risks, and the importance of knowing test results.


The main challenges and steps taken to address them  


The main challenge in the work stems from the failure and unwillingness of healthcare services to work with drug dependent patients. Often, people who live on the street and use pharmacy drugs and homemade opiates have no chance to get medical care. Even if they have all the necessary identification papers, they still cannot get comprehensive care that would help solve their problems, such as injuries and post-injection complications. We try to help participants on a case by case basis – referring them to medical specialists who work with us for consultations.


Most of our participants cannot access medical services because they either do not have all necessary identification papers or came to Moscow from other cities. A system of “pink stubs” allowed us to refer these participants for detoxification, rehabilitation and other medical services. After the cancellation of these “pink stubs” in November 2012 we can no longer refer these participants to the Moscow medical facilities. We appealed this decision of the Moscow Health Department with support of volunteers - community defenders and pro-bono lawyers but so far there was no decision by the court.


A similar situation has been observed with pregnant participants of the project. They cannot receive drug treatment because due to pregnancy they cannot be admitted to drug treatment clinics (according to existing drug treatment standards, drug treatment is contraindicated for pregnant women as drugs used in drug treatment are toxic). Thus, pregnant women have no way of getting adequate medical assistance in connection with drug dependence. ARF is also involved in strategic litigation around lack of access to opioid substitution treatment for drug dependent women in Russia.


The project does not have an office or a room where people who use drugs and their friends could come to visit our outreach workers, receive information or meet for trainings and discussions, including discussions about our current repressive drug policies.


Changing weather conditions (seasonal factor) also create challenges for meeting new participants. We tried to collect money for the outreach bus but did not reach the goal by the winter of 2013 and this winter we experience the same problems.


Another challenge is changing drug scene. We solve this problem by organizing outreach to investigate new sites and learn about new sites from our participants.


Our participants have multiple legal problems which present a priority in their lives over their health and well-being. In 2012 we started to work with several lawyers groups such as pro-bono firm Second Opinion, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, a legal clinic of the Russia Legal Academy, Legal Association Agora, web-resource Our outreach workers represented clients interests in courts and provided counceling and referral in cases where legal consultation is needed. We decided that in 2013 we will dedicate more attention to legal services and had a consultation with a group of Moscow lawyers in January 2013 on how to improve our cooperation.



The 2012 years activities were funded through the Crystal of Hope Award received by ARF for its outstanding contribution to HIV advocacy. 25% time of our case manager and some prevention materials was also funded through the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network/EC grant for developing services for women. We have also received some targeted donations for support of particular individuals, travel to Moscow etc. We started a campaign on Global Giving to fundraise for the bus, which was accompanied by a number of advocacy activities in Moscow. One of the brightest activities – an auction of contemporary art work in support of the fundraising organized by our friends from the Creative Bureau “How does it work” which sold several artwork to support our fundraising. However, we were not able to reach our goal to buy a minibus by winter of 2013.

Nov 14, 2012

November update from Andrey Rylkov Foundation

Receiving the award from Canadian Network and HRW
Receiving the award from Canadian Network and HRW

Dear friends,
(just a couple words for russian spearkers: druzja esli hotite otchet po russki, ya ego skoro poveshu na sait!!)  
we would like to give you a short update on some of important directions of ARF work.

  • The most exciting news in the last several months is that we have received an International Award for HIV and Human Rights from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal network and Human Rights Watch. This is really a big honor for ARF and an important token of solidarity from the international community for our efforts both in advocacy and service provision! We had a celebration of the award in Moscow and were happy to see our dear drug user participants, artists, social activists and other friends who came to share our joy.
  • Last month we also had continuation of our trial with the Federal Drug Control Service on the issue of closure of our web-site in February 2012. As it happened, not unexpectedly, FDCS could not provide the court with any documents which served a basis for closure of our website. For now, the judge issued a request to the hosting provider asking to provide a copy of the website. So for now, the trial focuses mostly on technical issues, while we’d like to focus on more content ones (precisely, can documents such as the WHO recommendations and WHO/UNODC/UNAIDS position paper on substitution treatment, or Recommendations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights be considered as  drug propaganda or not. What do you think? It will be interesting to know what the court thinks as well.
  • As some of you know, an appalling new law on internet censorship has been passed in Russia which allows to ban any undesirable web-sites. So even our website that is hosted abroad can also be banned now. On a positive side, our web-site was N one to be protected under the community initiative for free internet coordinated by our friends from the Pirate Party of Russia. This initiative provides access to websites that are or will be banned in Russia in the nearest future.
  • Together with our partners from International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, the Creative Bureau How does it work, and the Trade Union of Street Artists we have organized an action in front of the Roche building in Moscow in order to protest their refusal to negotiate price reduction of Hepatitis treatment medicines. We also greet excitingly the great developments in India, where Roche patent on pegylated interferon was defeated by the united effort of the community and lawyer activists!
  • Last week we participated in the 49 Session of the UN Committee Against Torture, which reviewed the 5th Russian periodic report on the Convention against Torture. We have previously submitted a comprehensive report to the Committee on the drug policy of Russia as providing rich soil for tortures and inhumane, ill treatment of drug users. You can read the report called Atmospheric Pressure: Russian Drug Policy as a Driver for Violations of the UN Convention against Torture. Based on our report, the Committee has posed a question regarding drug policy to the government delegation and we’re expecting the official Recommendations of the Committee next week.
  • One extremely exciting news, is that one of our dear activists and friends Dima Polushkin has been released from prison. Dima fought for access to Opioid Substitution Treatment in Russia - he wrote a letter to the Ministry of Health asking to provide him with evidence based OST. Instead of so wanted treatment, just a month after he submitted the application to the Ministry, Dima was set up by Federal Drug Control Service, tortured and humiliated during the investigation and finally charged with drug procurement on false charges and spent several month in prison. Together with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and a local lawyer in Lesosibirsk (Krasnoyarsk Kray) we fought for justice and (surprisingly!) at the stage of the court of appeal, Dimas case was sent to revision and the court ruled to release him from prison until the final decision on his case is taken. This rarely happened in Russia and we are very happy for this, albeit not final, victory. Dima has already applied to the European Court on Human Rights and his complaint clearly outlines situation when instead of quality treatment he asked for, the government decided to simply throw him in prison.  
  • Finally, but not least importantly, our outreach services continue daily, we serve our dear participants, provide them with prevention materials, tests, referral, care and support. The winter has hit Moscow, and unfortunately we are still far behind our aim of collecting 60K of the money for the bus - so far we have collected only 1/10th of this sum. So we ask you if possible to reach out to your friends who are likely to donate and support our efforts and ask them to do so! we’re immensely grateful for your support to our work and for your kind donations and we send you much love and respect from Moscow!

Anya and ARF team.  


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