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Why Help Those You Don’t Want to Help?

On the 27th of February in the Saint Petersburg state media center a round table entitled “Why Help Those You Don’t Want to Help?” was…
день ноль дискриминации

On the 27th of February in the Saint Petersburg state media center a round table entitled “Why Help Those You Don’t Want to Help?” was held.
It was devoted to the topic of helping people from so called socially vulnerable groups: drug dependent people, alcoholics, and HIV-positive people who face rights violations in medical and social institutions.
The following people presented as experts:
Danila Petrov, Head of the Department of Demographic Issues and Gender Politics managing social protection of motherhood and childhood, family and demographic politics of the Committee of Social Politics in Saint Petersburg;
Marina Akulova, Head of the Prevention of Socially Significant Diseases among Drug Users at the charitable fund Humanitarian Action;
Svetlana Moseeva, Executive Director of the interregional foundation Rehabilitation Center House of Hope,
Svetlana Gavrilova, Project Coordinator of Peers Defending Peers at NP “E.V.A.”
Svetlana Gavrilova did not pause and immediately declared that “we are all the children of Soviet dentistry.” What does that mean? People who grew up in the Soviet Union clearly remember the neighborhood dentist offices where the entire class was dragged, and, as a class, were treated in big offices filled with screaming children and the piercing gnash of the drill… Ahhh! But although the Soviet Union fell, some people are still treated as those children in Soviet dentist offices. HIV-positive people, for example.
Svetlana spoke about the project Peers Defending Peers. The project counselors are people living with HIV, tuberculosis, and viral hepatitis. Peer counselors are not lawyers, but their lives have pushed them to understand legislation and to learn how to apply it. Now they share their experiences about how to receive the necessary and guaranteed assistance using simple legal algorithms and fight against stigmatization of the disease. In challenging situations, a professional and certified lawyer is brought in for assistance as part of the program.
As a rule, peer counselors are sought out in cases where the rights of a patient are violated such as when they are not given life-saving medication or when marks are made on medical charts that “out” their HIV status, which is a breach of confidentiality without consent.
Yet why are the rights of those who are ill violated? HIV infection is a stigmatized disease and people living with HIV often face discrimination on the basis of their status. And from where does this discrimination come?
“Discrimination, in fact, is the inability to express aggression,” says Svetlana. When a patient is faced with discrimination, they do not seek out treatment and become sources for transmission of the infection. When we help them receive help, this works as prevention for the whole population.”
Judging by the questions from journalists who were present at the round table, the topic of discrimination of vulnerable groups is relevant. For example, “Is it worth it to make separate hospitals for HIV-infected people so they wouldn’t face discrimination in general medical facilities?” Or, “Why help alcoholics who beg for money at churches?”
A no less important topic was broadcasted on the TV channel Saint Petersburg TV channel Saint Petersburg on the results of the round table. Directly quoting from what was aired: “One of the problems is that specialists see an obscene amount of negativity in media about the lives of drug users. It is these people specifically who are at risk for HIV infection. However, the city government, charities, and businesses are always ready to help those who find themselves in a difficult situation.” But was the round table really about this?
Regardless, it is specifically thanks to these issues, subjects, and comments that it becomes clear in which direction community organizations that help vulnerable groups work. Fortunately the Saint Petersburg Press Committee allows for these opportunities by gathering together journalists, the government, and non-profits on one platform to discuss acute social problems.
The round table was for Zero Discrimination Day, an initiative of UNAIDS that is celebrated on the 1st of March. For this year’s Zero Discrimination Day, UNAIDS is calling for zero discrimination in health-care settings. The right to health is one of the main human rights and it includes the opportunity to access timely and quality medical care. However discrimination remains widespread in medical institutions and creates serious barriers in receiving access to treatment, including treatment for HIV infection. The slogan for Zero Discrimination Day 2017 is: Make some noise.

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