Russian HIV Service and LGBT Organisations fight jointly against HIV and AIDS
In Russia, officially, around 750,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV. The actual number is likely to be higher. In some regions the country seems to be in the transition to a "general epidemic", which means that more than one per cent of the population is living with HIV.
In the 1990s, the virus spread mainly among drug users. Also, today the official numbers show that more than half of the cases of new infections are caused by intravenous drug use, almost 50 % by heterosexual and only 1.5 percent by homosexual contact (mostly among gay men and other men who have sex with men). Different surveys, conducted among gay men and other MSM and the LGBT community how a different picture where HIV prevalence among those group is much higher than the official numbers show.
Such official statistics – among other factors - have influenced the development of the landscape of HIV prevention within civil society for a long time. Many NGOs working in the framework of HIV have been focusing on providing harm reduction services for drug users rather than prevention measures among the LGBTI community.
LGBTI organisations, on the other side, have been concentrating on human rights, trying to improve the overall situation for their communities. As widely known, in Russia, the climate for the LGBT community has been rough for years. Instead of tackling the public's scepticism toward homosexuality, the Russian leadership has been using homophobia in its propaganda struggle against the West. Correspondingly, HIV related stigma directly connects to immoral behaviour and is widespread in the Russian society, too.
The phenomenon of the double stigma has additionally contributed to the underestimation of the spread of HIV among the LGBT community and has led to the ignorance towards the issue within the community, but also within the overall society.
This situation had built the basis for a national conference in December 2016, organized by the LGBTI community and HIV service organisations. From December 16 to December 18, 2016, the first Russian National Conference of HIV Service Organizations and LGBT Movement was held in Moscow.
More than 100 delegates, including activists from both HIV and LGBT organizations, representatives of AIDS centres, doctors, researchers, and social workers from different regions of Russia took part in the three-day conference, organised by the Expert Council on HIV/AIDS among MSM/LGBT people in Russia, with the support of the Open Institute for Population Health in the framework of the Program to Enhance Access of Vulnerable Populations to Services Prevention, treatment and care for HIV / AIDS in Russia.
The main objectives of the conference were to raise awareness of and discuss the problem of HIV within the LGBT community and strengthen cooperation between HIV Service and LGBT organizations for jointly fighting the HIV Epidemic among MSM / LGBT in Russia. During the conference a working group started to develop a Declaration of Cooperation Between HIV Service Organizations and LGBT Movement, that has been finalized within the following months and can be downloaded here.