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Presenting author: denis podopelov
"Stop using drugs or die" - that was the approach used to treat people who use drugs (PUD) in the AIDS Center in Almetyevsk, Russia. This approach demanded that PUD should have at least a three-month clean time to get a referral to start ART. Doctors justified this approach by a lack of adherence of people who use drugs to HIV treatment. PUD continued to use drugs and subsequently died of AIDS because they weren't able to stop using.
Almetyevsk is a city with a high level of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and drug users. The population is 205 592 people. 2307 cases of HIV are registered in Almetyevsky region and 692 people receive ARVT in 2018.
"Timur Islamov Foundation" started the project "Strengthening community systems and overcoming legal barriers" on the basis of the low threshold center in Almetyevsk in 2016, using the financial support from the GF. The foundation conducted individual consultations and educational workshops among drug users. The goals of the project are increasing adherence to ART, teaching practical skills of protection human rights, as well as providing legal information to help PUD solve the legal issues regarding access to ART by themselves. Thanks to this work we managed to establish the community of PUD in Almetyevsk. HIV+ PUD were invited as equal partners to participate in the dialogue with representatives of state medical institutions of Almetyevsk Health Department.
From March 2016 till June 2018, the project covered 528 people living with HIV, 411 of them were PUD. A lot of PUD became volunteers of the project. There are no barriers in access to HIV treatment because of drug use.