We are still at the forefront!
The period of self-isolation affected everyone. But most of all, people living with HIV and the limitations of vulnerable groups, including migrants, felt the limitations. The main problem is the inability to receive the necessary medical, social, legal assistance. Examples include problems with receiving ART for HIV-positive citizens and the difficulty of visiting AIDS centers, difficulties in getting counseling / testing for HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs for representatives of a group of key groups (MSM, SWs, migrants, etc.). Most HIV-positive migrants are forced to stop taking antiretroviral drugs because of the inability to go home to get them, or to buy, as most of them lost their jobs and became hostages of the situation. Sometimes migrants do not even have money to buy food, pay for housing.
During the period of forced self-isolation, the staff of the Steps Foundation continue to work to support HIV-positive people. Thanks to the established contacts and a wide network of trusted doctors, personal meetings and consultations are held, and communication via videostreaming is also possible. The network of friendly psychologists and addiction doctors was significantly expanded, due to a sharp increase in requests for these professionals.
Oddly enough, but during the period of self-isolation, the Fund increased its work in HIV/STI prevention among key groups. Due to a decrease in work, for example, among sex workers and, as a result, earnings, many representatives of this key group began to provide services without the use of contraception, therefore, counseling and testing became one of the fundamental factors for them. During March-April 2020, the number of detected cases of HIV and STIs increased sharply. Also, testing and counseling for HIV and STIs is carried out for representatives of MSM and TG.
The operating hours of the low threshold center of the Fund are expanded, and there are practically no days off. Employees conduct testing 6 days a week (by appointment) so that queues are not created and visitors minimally contact.
Migrants receive HIV and STI care, but since many are in Russia illegally, employees help them get tested without the threat of being discovered by the authorities. If a migrant is referred to the Fund, he is always in contact with a consultant who, in the event of a meeting between a migrant and a police officer, advises on the rules for communicating with the police with observance of the rights of citizens. If necessary, we accompany the migrant to the AIDS center or other medical facilities, to friendly doctors. If it is necessary to receive ART, employees help to find the necessary drugs, which in the conditions of restrictions on movement, as well as the termination of work of most organizations, is very difficult.
In April 2020, in the context of restrictive measures in connection with the COVID-19 epidemic, 340 people received help and support, 160 people were tested for HIV infection, of whom 100 received also n STI diagnostics. If diseases were detected, consultations and referrals were made to the necessary doctor for further treatment. More than 500 sex workers received personal protective equipment. Also 50 people receives services from a psychologist, 30 – from an addiction doctor, 25 – from a sexologist, 47 – from a lawyer, and 80 – from an infectious disease doctor. In most cases, they were accompanied by an employee or volunteer of the Steps Foundation.
The social low-threshold Center for the period of self-isolation is divided into several zones to prevent the risk of infection. Thus, several additional waiting rooms are created, in consultation offices the disinfection is carried out every hour.
Citizens of Russia were assisted in finding ART through reserve medical kits and Foundation volunteers. Migrants were mainly helped to enroll in care and undergo necessary diagnotics for ART initiation.
The Fund employees worked to the limit of their capabilities, due to the fact that in most cases they worked as volunteers and obtained no remuneration.