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Social Support Cabinet. What have we accomplished in three months?

Since October 2017 a social support office for women affected by HIV has been in operation in Saint Petersburg. Clients can receive support from peer…

Since October 2017 a social support office for women affected by HIV has been in operation in Saint Petersburg. Clients can receive support from peer counselors, social support specialists, psychologists and lawyers.

 

In 3 months of the project’s work in 2017, 311 women received support and there were 431 consultations.

 

 

After analyzing the cases, we saw 6 main topics of the inquiries from women affected with HIV at the office of social support.

 

1. Problem: Coping with one’s diagnosis. This is a critical topic, which worries many women, who have recently learned of their diagnosis. How to live with HIV? Women are afraid to start new relationships, they are afraid of telling their partner about their diagnosis.

How we help: After reaching out to the office and speaking with a counselor on the basis of peer-to-peer, women understand that one can live a long life, happily and comfortably with HIV and that they can build their career, start a family, and feel like a full member of the community.

 

2. Problem: Questions about ARVT. How do you remain adherent? What to do if you have side effects? How can you change your treatment regime?

How we help: Specialists from the office can share their personal experience, tell how they have been able to remain adherent to ARVT, explain what to do if they have side effects. As needed office staff accompany women to the AIDS Center: they can collect the documents to be registered on the medical list, assist them in visiting the doctor, receive pills, etc.

 

3. Problem: AIDS Denialism. Many women live with an HIV diagnosis but do not believe that HIV exists. They refuse to visit the doctor and take medication, which often leads to a fatal end. What’s even worse, these women do not give their children the lifesaving medicine and as a consequence, their children die.

How we help: We speak with the denialist with the main aim of getting the woman and her children to the AIDS Center so they can immediately start treatment.

 

4. Problem: Planning pregnancy and motherhood with HIV. How can you conceive a healthy baby in a mixed status relationship (when one partner is HIV positive and the other HIV negative)? Can women with HIV breastfeed their child? When can one get formula milk? There are also many questions relating to children with HIV: can the child infect other children, how to tell the child they have HIV, etc.

How we help: Counselors tell which medical institutions should be visited, they explain in which cases IVF is done and which tests should be done for this to happen. If a woman needs formula milk, counselors give clear directions on what must be done in order to receive formula.

 

5. Problem: Refusal for treatment or stigmatizing women with HIV in medical institutions. Unfortunately this problem is also quite widespread. Women in these cases further stigmatize themselves, isolate themselves and are afraid to visit medical facilities.

How we help: The office’s lawyer provides templates for seeking care in medical facilities and for complaints of wrongful behavior on the part of the doctor. The goal of the assistance is to defend the rights of women with HIV in receiving medical care.

 

6. Problem: The need for humanitarian support for women living with HIV with poor living conditions: clothing for the women and their children, diapers, strollers and other essentials for infants.

How we help: The office has friendly partners (nonprofits and businesses) who are ready to provide this support.

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For 11 years we have been helping HIV-positive women all over Russia to unite and set aside their rights and their dignity as equals among equals.

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