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.
Pavel E. ZAYTSEV
Giving out syringes and warmth from heart to heart
Bringing health advise out to the street
Providing health training to other team members