Summertiiiime... and the outreach is easy!
Since summer we decided to put some of the exerpts from our daily outreach reports online and we have translated the September batch for our english-speaking supporters - you can find them below. September was a good month - we managed to establish a solid algorythm for our Street lawyers project, have two lawyers volunteering for us in moscow plus our regular support from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Now another two legal firms agreed (one international and one national) agreed to support some of ARF legal cases from moscow outreach pro bono, thanks to our cooperation with PILNET (Public Interest Law Network). We are now a bit overwhelmed with legal requests coming from our participants - its a completely new direction of our work, but already by now we dont understand how we tried to work on peoples health issues without considering their legal and human rights problems - they are inseparable and we now start to believe that legal protection should become a key part of any harm reduction work! September was rainy but still manageable in terms of the weather, but now the winter is coming and we will have to cut down our outreach significantly - we still approached our 60K target for buying a minibus only by 25%. So we do ask for you further support - please help to spread the word about our work among your colleagues and friends and ask them to support us and Moscow drug users too!! And now - some of the outreach reports from Moscow hot-spots! :)
The Chronicles of HR-Moscow. September
30.08.2013 . Arseny , Lena G.
There was rain and autumn. There were not too many participants but enough. Lena has a hypothesis that in this area there is a pharmacy, which is open until 9pm and which sells cheaper stuff, and so before 9pm there are few people in this pharmacy. People know us, and are happy to see us. Did one HIV test for a girl. She was worried that the test will be positive, but her fears didn’t materialize. She once hinted about rehabilitation, but were couldn’t talk normally. Non-users also came up from a bookmaker’s office. They had questions about what we were doing. Surprisingly, they were friendly. At the end of the outreach we met K., gave him the remaining materials. He says there is some people at Textilshiki [another outreach spot]. But it must be verified.
03.09.2013. Lena G , Timur , Sonia
Light rain. We came at about 8:10pm. We felt certain sparseness in the atmosphere. No one was waiting for us. Two girls came up. One was interested in rehabilitation. Gave her our card to call. Then there was another one, as she said, “one step from recovery.” She was interested in whether we can take her to work and all that. Talked to her heart to heart. She told us about her housing problems, that she had nowhere to live. Then came I., we gave him everything. By the way, I. requested Troxevasin, probably injectable, if I’m not mistaken. And then Roma N. He asked for detachable needles.
With Roma we had a very sincere and long conversation. It can be said that he made our evening. We gave alot of naloxone to the girls. They said that they needed it, because of the “goddamn overdosers”. Roma told us about a family we knew whose children were taken away. We said that we can help. He asked us to call, he will provide the contacts probably.
Then we moved on to the sex workers. Not a lot, frankly. Only one contacted us. She was standing there alone. Blond hair and big eyes, a limp. In short, we gave her everything, she received the secondary stuff. Went on. There were two more, but they didn’t need anything. Valya has hepatitis without HIV. Told them about the possibility of help with getting treatment. Maybe will call.
Oh yes, there was so few people there because the pharmacy wasn’t selling the tropicamid. That’s it.
09.09.2013. Timur , Lena G., Simeon, Yuri
This outreach was based on the wishes of the Swiss journalist Simon who wanted to mingle with some of the drug users, preferably with HR-Moscow participants. A few hours before we went there it was difficult to find someone who'd agree to be interviewed (and to gather them in one place), but in the end after all three people came to meet us and gave interviews. Simeon the reporter was accompanied by the photographer and translator Yuri.
After the interview with one participant, the foreigners took a taxi and we went to the Staryi Guy [another location]. There were a few less people than in those times when we went out there with Alexander. We had 7 contacts, plus a few people refused a contact. One couple wanted to return and get tested for HIV, but did not return. There were even two contacts with people we already met. We also had a chat with a woman who wasn’t a drug user, she was just interested. In truth, I used to not pay attention to contacts with “civilians”, but recently Arseny spoke to the effect that a right self-presentation for the casually interested can become an important element, and this seems to me a sensible argument. Maybe we should be giving these people some materials about drug policy?
We missed the alcohol wipes.
Foreigners interviewed Valya from Lublino (she came especially for this), and then another acquaintance, Ramsay (we once gave him materials for secondary distribution). He is interested in our work and is thinking about volunteering on outreach.
Timur led the foreigners to the subway , and we went with Valya to my place. Along the way, we decided to stop by the pharmacy next to Vykhino metro station - that is quite near my house; I’ve been wanting to check it out since 2-3 weeks. We arrived there at 11pm, and at that time there was a horde of druggies. Tropicamid is still on sale there. In a short period we made about 8 contacts, we gave out the remaining materials, all the brochures were taken. Did two tests for HIV and one for hepatitis C. There was a woman who knows about us and she said hi to Max – she’s a petite brunette, young enough, forgot her name. There was another woman Dasha, who had a legal request (she’s either doing correctional labor or is on probation, and she just needs a job). Due to her condition she couldn’t accurately formulate her request, but she took the card and even recorded my phone number in her notebook.
10.09.2013. Timur , Lena G , volunteer Oksana from the Silver Rose [sex workers union], Simon and Yura - journalists .
We left at around 8:10pm. We came on the spot and stayed there. A girl came up (there were two, but one went to the pharmacy, and the other came up to us). She was friendly. Took some insulin needles. Dusya was there with her crutches, she had received herprosthesis on a quota, but she can’t get to the testing site because she’s on crutches, and she can’t get a taxi. We gave her a number from the Silver Rose (from Oksana), who said she could help to organize transportation to the hospital but Dusya didnt want to take it, because it was "humiliating". Internal stigma is terrible.
Then there were two guys (one is lame, and the other one had tattoos on his arm). Very emotional guys. If you treat someone like a human being you’ll get the same in return. But at first they were tough, like those guys you’d be afraid to meet in a dark alley. One said that he’d call and write to a group on VKontakte. He wants to go to detox, he’s tired of drugs.
Then our journalists came up , and these guys agreed to talk about their life. They spent 20 minutes talking to the recorder, and then took some photos. Well, it's worth noting that these journalists were quite polite.
Then there were other guys, we gave them materials. [Our volunteer] B. also gave an interview. He talked at length about his drug use experience and philosophy. At 10:30 we hinted that it would be necessary to go to sex workers actually and we went to search for the girls. Here the journalists suggested using taxi services (at their expense). In the taxi was a Georgian guy, called Koba of which he was very proud [like Stalins party alias!]. And he wanted to tell the reporters about the other Koba [Stalin]. We explained to him that we need to take a ride through the sex workers spots. He said: "Aha, I know all the spots with girls, I’ll show you." And he did. We contacted five girls on two spots, gave away a lot of condoms and needles. They also took some back to an apartment for their colleagues. We gave them the Silver Rose [sex workers association] brochures. I told Koba about us. He understood. Says he is ready to give us a ride if we pay. Gave us his phone number.
Overall it was good and sincere.
17.09.2013 . Timur , Lena , Oksana , David
I 'll tell you a tale about how Lena , Timur , Oksana David did outreach!
Darkness enveloped the neighborhood. Haze laughed in our faces. Only occasional drug users lit us up with the warmth of their hearts and the glitter of their eyes! We met P. (I think it was him because I’m not good with names and he has an ear tunnel). He’s great! We talked heart to heart. He talked about the problems his girlfriend has with her veins. Strange things are happening to them . Doctors say these are blood clots , but he is certain that it is something else. By the way , he also said that on the weekend he had saved a guy from overdose with our naloxone. So one more saved life!
There were cute girls there . They wanted 2cc and 5cc syringes (5ccs were in high demand) . One asked about Troxevasin , says it helps alot - even her veins appeared slightly .
Pasha [another participant] was there. Pasha was as always cheerful and full of energy (but without his usual bag). We gave him as much as we could. Gave him hugs in the spirit of the General Secretary.
By the way, we even had a request for 10ccs . This is just ... for the future.
There also was a girl (she always comes up, so pretty, dark-haired, petite). She says her children are being taken away .They don’t take away her [parental] rights but demand that she write a letter of attorney to give away the parental rights to her parents . We told her that we can help she said she'd call.
I should mention one amazing thing. A woman pulled up “on a silver horse” with an open side window. She asked me, why are you here all the time. I explained about HIV , hepatitis , tests, all of this .... She became interested . Lena joined here and gave her advice and our card. We said that we can help with all of this, and if necessary - to sue for access to medical treatment. In short , maybe she’ll call . Then there was a woman with a dog (large, called Red) . We gave many things to the woman and she also promised to call. We gave her naloxone . She said she uses it to help people who OD regularly.
Regarding the situation on the ground I’ll say the following: Tropicamid is not being sold anymore at this pharmacy and THERE AREN’T ENOUGH PEOPLE! They say there’s some in the underpass, but also alot of police, so not really a good spot.
Then we called Koba the taxi driver and drove through the sex workers spots. It felt good. We gave out a bunch of condoms (Oksana bought additional ones). We drove around the spots, for about 40 minutes. Lena and Oksana went out and contacted sex workers . We had a sincere, long talk with one of them.
Mini outreach 19.09.2013 . Lena G. , Eugene H.
Went with Eugene to our local pharmacy even later at eleven-thirty at night. We met an interesting woman Katya. She is HIV - positive for thirteen years, but the immune status is not bad, about 350 cells (she’s not on therapy yet) . She regularly goes for tests and is generally attentive to her health. She has a child of 10 years , and is regularly visited by the state social worker - Katya believes that the visits cause psychological harm to her child . However, she is confident in her abilities and believes that she will withdraw from the custody surveillance on her own. Her child is adversely affected ( perhaps this is not harassment, but special treatment ) at school – adults are spreading rumors about Katya that she "has AIDS". Katya expressed willingness to come to any seminars or training sessions, but only on weekends . We should probably already start a group of women with children.
Katya said that near this pharmacy cops are cruising all the time. A precinct is nearby. Kate raised the question : how do we protect the data of our participants , recorded in notebooks or phones, if we are detained? They can search through our things? There was one man , whom we have already met . Interestingly there also was an Afro- Russian .
Talked to the pharmacist: she leaned out the window and started asking us about what kind of vials we were giving out (it was the naloxone) . We explained to her , and in addition gave brochures about the ARF and about overdoses.
20.09.2013: Max and Arseny
We met with Maxim in 7:30pm at the subway and went to the spot. Rain and grayness drove already a low motivation to work practically to zero. The only thing that warmed us were thoughts and conversations about shawarma . We went to SG [spot] by bus, which went straight to the depot. We began to worry that we will get lost, but the locals surprised us in a positive way. By their conduct, they reminded us of our native inhabitants of [our hometown of] Tver. On the bus we had a real debate on where Max and I should get off and where to go. As a result, we found the right pharmacy .
We stood at the entrance to the 7th Continent Grocery , and prepared to communicate heart to heart with those who are still suffering . But almost immediately we had the feeling that everyone around us were strange and unreal. I kept my thoughts to myself so as not to look paranoid in the eyes of Maxim. Moreover, we indulged in nostalgia for psilocybes, and I thought I was just having the flash-backs. There were almost no participants and we hesitated to approach those who came to the pharmacy. The reason for that were passers-by. There were many. Men and women, young and old, dressed in sportswear and soviet-style, all were different. But, they stood in silence for a long time near the store, smoking, drinking coffee, talking occasionally . In general, we spent an hour not understanding anything, we got hungry and went to the grocery to buy food. I purchased a cake with condensed milk and a bottle of Orangina , paid before Maxim and stood waiting near the exit chewing the cake. And then I was approached by hunted participants, who whispered that we were surrounded by plainclothes cops, and disappeared. I told Max about my phantom, and we once again rushed to the street. And hell, all these passer-bys were real cops! They somehow relaxed in the evening, began to loudly discuss the news of the police department, to joke about drugs and other crap. ALL THE PEOPLE AROUND THE STORE WERE COPS!