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‘People Can go for Years Without Being Tested’

In Saint Petersburg another step of the project ‘EVA Cares: HIV Peer Counseling Services’ has been completed. What was accomplished in 2015?   In December…

In Saint Petersburg another step of the project ‘EVA Cares: HIV Peer Counseling Services’ has been completed. What was accomplished in 2015?
In December 2015 in Saint Petersburg the next step of the project ‘Caring EVA: HIV Peer Counseling Services’ was completed. (Official title: ‘Preparing Peer Counselors from the Ranks of People Living with HIV and Providing Their Services in Institutions that Perform Social Services for HIV infected Citizens’).
In 2015, 11 peer counselors provided 5,930 services, including 3850 socio-psychological, and 2,080 socio-pedagogical. The project’s services covered 1,156 individuals.
“From my point of view the importance, relevance, and originality of this project consists in the fact that peer counselors share their experience in overcoming many of the difficulties that clients come to them with. Our team is a link between HIV positive families, social services, and health institutions,” shared (in Russian) project coordinator Maria Godlevskaya in an interview for the ‘Life Without Barriers” project of the news agency RIA News.
Peer counselors worked at the Center for Social Aid for Families and Children, which has offices in each region of Saint Petersburg. Besides these centers, peer counselors acted as ‘navigators’ between clients, doctors, and other specialists at the Saint Petersburg Women’s Crisis Center, the Clinical Infectious Disease Hospital in honor of Botkina, and the Center for the Prevention of and Fight Against AIDS and Infectious Diseases.
Peer Counselor Olga:
“There once was a girl, who lived to herself and didn’t know any anguish. And this girl, let’s call her Yana, met a prince ‘on a white stallion’. And Yana fell crazy in love with this prince. She was prepared to go through fire and water for him. But it turned out that the prince’s past was not very good. This prince had injected drugs. When he met Yana, he was in remission, but one wonderful day he broke and relapsed. He started to use again, and Yanka, watching him, also joined in… she tried once, and there was no turning back. And so they started to use together.
As it later turned out, this guy was HIV positive and Yana was infected from him. She broke up with her prince and there were many men in her life. But this story isn’t about men. I met Yana in 2014. At that point she had used drugs for about 10 years. In all that time she had never tested her CD4 cells level. I, as a peer counselor, told her about HIV, how to live with the diagnosis, that ART exists. After some time Yana decided to go to the AIDS center and get tested…
I believe that albeit small, this is a result. People can go for years without being tested and some do not have enough information, which they could receive from a peer counselor. Yana, unfortunately, has not yet decided to be treated for dependency, but she has begun to think about her health. And I, as a peer counselor, am ready to help her take that step.”
Peer Counselor Stanislav:
“I received a request from a staff member at the AIDS center regarding a 31-year-old pregnant woman who had disappeared and for several months had not visited the doctor. I was asked to find her and try to motivate her to get on treatment. I went to the specified address, and found her at home in poor physical and emotional condition. The woman lived with her mother and nine-year-old son and when I came he was at school. The mother practically played no role in the lives of her daughter and grandson and didn’t even greet me. The client emphatically refused any kind of help and was reluctant to make contact. After a long consultation, she showed interest in visiting a doctor but flatly refused to go in an ambulance and said she would go on her own. The next day I couldn’t reach her by phone and decided to go to her home again. I found her in an even more deplorable state, helped her gather herself, and took her to the AIDS center. After several days, I received a call from a staff member at the center, who told me that the woman had died in the intensive care unit. Luckily they were able to save the baby…
I received a request from the department of social work assistance to women in difficult life situations regarding a family: husband (34 y.o.), wife (28 y.o.), son (5 y.o.), son (5 months). They needed to be counseled on substance abuse and HIV treatment. The couple used drugs together several years and both were HIV positive. The older son was absolutely healthy and the younger son had some particularities with his health. I made several visits to the family, counseled them several times on issues of addiction and treatment. The family expressed a clear desire to get better – in all meanings. A rehabilitation plan was developed for both spouses at different times since they didn’t want to give up their children under any conditions. First the husband went to the municipal narcological hospital and then the wife. After being discharged they both regularly visit the infectious disease doctor and have started to take ART. They are both in remission, but unfortunately they are not taking any prevention against using chemical substances. The husband works, the children are living in acceptable conditions, and the staff at the center for aid to families and children plan to provide services to improve their living conditions.”
In 2016, the work of the project will most likely resume, but on a smaller scale than the last year. Peer counselors who will remain involved in the project promise that this will not affect the quality of the services they provide.

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