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Type of submission: Oral
Conference track: Practice
Topics: Funding and Donors for Harm Reduction; Needle and Syringe Programmes
Presenting author: Ekaterina Poilova
According to our estimates, there are 50,000 drug users in St. Petersburg. Our organization has been able to help 5,000 drug users annually who meet our minimal requirement threshold for assistance.
Notwithstanding recommendations, Russia's continues to criminalize drug users, which only compounds existing discrimination toward IDUs. Discrimination is so severe, drug users tend to avoid all government and non-government organizations, even those that provide disease and addiction prevention.
Our project is Blue Bus, a bus that brings harm reduction directly to at-risk population in St. Petersbug since 2001. The true uniqueness of our project lies in our co-financing: international grants and government subsidies granted by State Executive Committees.
Blue Bus is not a replacement for government agencies. Instead, the goal is to connect the at risk groups who face social, legal and economic barriers to suitable healthcare with government structures by guiding individuals through impediments or by referring them to a relevant agency. A main objective of Blue Bus is increasing the amount of connections possible for at risk groups by forming new bonds with organizations that offer previously untapped resources.
• More than 400,000 used syringes are removed from street use annually
• More than 600 have stopped using drugs
• More than 300 pregnant drug users received medical care during pregnancy and childbirth, ended their drug use and are currently raising their children themselves
• 94% of sex worker participants in our harm reduction program use condoms with clients.
We believe our success with the Blue Bus program can be replicated in other Russian cities with high prevalence of HIV and other STDs. Our unique method of gaining funding and creating close ties with government sources allows previously alienated drug users to gain access to government healthcare programs.