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VERA BREZHNEVA: “I’m greatly impressed by people and their stories”

On the eve of international “Zero Discrimination” day, Vera Brezhneva, UNAIDS goodwill ambassador, visited a branch of social support for families and children in the…

On the eve of international “Zero Discrimination” day, Vera Brezhneva, UNAIDS goodwill ambassador, visited a branch of social support for families and children in the state funded institute “Integrated Social Service Center for the Population of the Krasnosel’sky Region in Saint Petersburg”.

The work of one of the branches of the Center is dedicated to social support for women living with HIV, children, and members of their familes. Each client has his/her own life story burdened not only by their disease but also by their social status. Those who came to the branch for help were women with HIV, including pregnant women, women who use drugs, previously incarcerated women, and also their loved ones. Today the services and support by specialists at the Center are used by 265 people and of them 109 are diagnosed with HIV infection.
“I am greatly impressed by people and their stories, and also by what I saw in the center where exclusively professional, genuine, and friendly people work,” said Vera Brezhneva. “I understand this: no one is immune to problems in life. We cannot condemn those who, for one reason or another, find themselves in difficult situations. However we can be kind and tolerant to one another.”
Vera also encouraged everyone to join the global campaign #ZeroDiscrimination on social networks, sending out messages on ‘Twitter’ and ‘Facebook’.
“Today we see HIV as a socio-medical problem. People learn to live with this diagnosis and those around them become more informed about this issue. The good news is that there are women who are prepared to share their diagnosis despite that this is psychologically difficult. If you think about it, accepting people who live with HIV into society can contribute on the path to the destruction of stigmatization and discrimination of these people, and help them build up the desire to take care of their health and the future of their children”, said Anna Shpilevskaya, deputy director of the Center and curator of the project for organizing work with women and children living with HIV in Krasnosel’sky region.
“We now have everything necessary so that an HIV infected individual can live a full and long life, and so that HIV positive women who take their treatment on time can give birth to healthy children. What is needed are conditions that make people comfortable to undergo examination so that the fear of being discussed and isolated vanishes and so that HIV infection could be detected and treated earlier”, believes Evgeniy Evgenievich Voronin, head non-staff pediatric specialist for the Russian Ministry of Health on issues of diagnosis and treatment for HIV infection.
“I have been living with HIV for 15 years and my husband is HIV negative; we have a healthy child. This was possible thanks to the fact that I take ARVT, work with the doctors, and take care of my health,” said Maria Godlevskaya, coordinator of E.V.A.’s “Peer Counselor” project.
“Zero Discrimination” day has been celebrated on the 1st of March since 2014. Across the world people continue to be faced with discrimination due to their race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or identity, disability, sex, or age. This day provides an opportunity for people the world over to once again claim the rights of each individual to live a full life with dignity – regardless of how he or she looks, where they were born, or who they love.
Discrimination is not only a violation of human rights, it is unlawful, immoral, harmful, and inhumane. Discrimination can happen anywhere: at work, at school, at home, and in public. Discrimination is not simply pain that wounds a person or group of people – it hurts society as a whole.
Eradication of all forms of discrimination is a key component in the UNAIDS strategy in reaching the goal of “zero” new cases of HIV infection, “zero” discrimination, and “zero” deaths as a consequence of AIDS.
The symbol of the campaign is a butterfly, widely known as a symbol of transformation.

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