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“We are together and always support one another!”

From October 8 to 10 NP ‘E.V.A.’ General Assembly convened in Saint Petersburg. As anticipated, it turned out to be intensive, vibrant, and – most…
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From October 8 to 10 NP ‘E.V.A.’ General Assembly convened in Saint Petersburg. As anticipated, it turned out to be intensive, vibrant, and – most importantly – useful.
 
At the meeting’s opening, the head non-staff specialist at the RF Ministry of Health on the issues of HIV diagnostics and treatment, Evgeniy Evgenivich Voronin, and the head of the department on issues of demographics and gender politics at the committee of social politics in Saint Petersburg, Marina Victorovna Zhukova, presented. These specialists have been cooperating with NP ‘E.V.A.’ for quite some time and therefore they gladly accepted the invitation to address the participants of the meeting. In their greetings they mentioned the importance of mobilizing all the available resources to combat the spread of HIV-infection in Russia and also to strengthen the interaction among non-profits and the governmental organs.
 
Subsequently ‘E.V.A.’ members had an opportunity to ask the specialists questions. Marina Victorovna answered a question about how to successfully build a partnership between non-profits and the government, “This is dependant on the region and on the governmental body’s desire to take up the issue. It is rather important to have interaction among the governmental bodies themselves – for example, between specialists from medical and social services. When representatives from the medical community understand this and begin to establish contact with social workers, the foundation for successful interaction is laid. But the initiative must come from the AIDS center and therefore, as I see it, you can more actively use this resource to offer your help.”
 
In answering the question on how specifically non-profits should work with HIV-positive women, Evgeniy Evgenivich Voronin said, “In my experience, first of all support for women is needed: emotional, psychological and social. Your support as peer counselors is truly invaluable. An important aspect of collaborative work is preventing the refusal to take antenatal prevention and also to take ART. We are one team.”
 
Inspired by the words of the important guests, the participants got straight down to work. The agenda was very packed and therefore there was no time for the members to be bored.
 
Natalia Sidorenko represented NP ‘E.V.A.’ Board and she spoke about the work that had taken place since the last General Assembly by the Board, which had in fact been created at the last meeting to control the executive decisions of the meetings’ members. Over the course of a year the Board held regular Skype meetings where they considered the admittance of new members into the network, checked in on the projects that are being implemented, and also discussed other issues. In the words of Natalia Sidorenko, she is not entirely satisfied with how the Board worked. In response the facilitator Natalia Leonchuk remarked that healthy self-criticism is, of course, good, but based on the report that had been given, the Board worked effectively. Members of the General Assembly agreed with Natalia’s words.
 
Then the participants broke up into small groups and discussed the strategic goals of the network until the year 2020. The point of this was to finalize these goals on the third day of the meeting.
 
On the second day of the meeting, ‘E.V.A.’ members took part in trainings on topics related to improving the quality of services for women who are vulnerable to or living with HIV. In parallel, the Secretariat and the Board discussed the ideas and proposals that had come from the members’ brainstorm the previous day.
 
Finally, on the third day of the General Assembly, the network’s members finalized the organization’s strategic goals until 2020. They are as follows:
 
1. To improve access to medical-social services and legal assistance for women living with HIV, vulnerable to HIV (sex workers, women who use drugs, adolescents) and those whose close vicinities include people with HIV-infection, as well as women living with tuberculosis and viral hepatitis in the Russian Federation.
 
2. To reduce stigmatization and discrimination of women affected by the HIV epidemic.
 
3. To develop the potential of the network’s members.
 
Tatiana Evlampieva, Board Member (Moscow):
 
“What has the network accomplished in the last year?
 
First of all, the quantity of members has doubled. In my view, this is a clear indicator that ‘E.V.A.’ has become more visible – in both the media and within the community itself. If there was such a competition, I would award ‘E.V.A.’ network of the year.
 
If we are to discuss the next steps in development, I would propose that we think of how to attract on-the-ground activists to the work of the network. At the meeting we talked of simple and inexpensive ways to draw in people who are not ready to work openly but would like to do their part. The most simple way is to print sheets of paper and hand them out at support groups or to hold thematic courses such as on the topic of breastfeeding. And so, thanks to communicating through ‘peer-to-peer’, the network will be built.
 
In general, the meeting was inspiring: there was a lot of warmth, commonality, and feelings of pride in the accomplishments. I hope that in the future this feeling will grow stronger.”
 
Svetlana Kommissarova, network member (Tula):
 
“And so the next meeting of NP ‘E.V.A.’ has come to an end. One can describe at length the informational and educational parts of the event. For me it was very interesting, informative, and productive. But I’d like to talk about how warm the atmosphere of the actual meeting was. I saw many people with whom, after many years of acquaintance, communication, and joint work, it has become easy to interact – even familiarize. And I also was able to make new acquaintances, which were very important and necessary for me… It’s very sad now that it’s all over. I could cry! I’d like to give a huge thanks to all the staff at ‘E.V.A.’ for the opportunity to attend the general assembly and training, for their excellent logistics and for organizing this event.
 
I am proud, very proud, that I am a small part of a big network! I bow to you, my friends and colleagues!”
 
Svetlana Gavrilova, Network Coordinator (Saint Petersburg):
 
“I’m glad that all the participants demonstrated great preparation to work, asked questions, and made changes to the documents. I’d like this activity to continue on, despite that in the regions the situation is frequently more challenging than, for example, in Saint-Petersburg.
 
Now I’m simply smiling and relishing in the aftertaste of the meeting: the faces, the smiles, so real and alive. It’s unfortunate that we had to rush and were not able to take the time to speak with everyone and not everyone was able to say what they had that is unique… I have feelings and warmth for each and every one of you.
 
I’d like to wish all the participants strength and energy in their work and lives. Despite all the challenges, we are together and always support one another.”
 
Photography by: Natalia Zamanskaya.

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