The Russian NGO, Andrey Rylkov Foundation (ARF) is the first and only non-governmental organization in Moscow that provides sterile needles and syringes to injecting drug users and is the strongest advocate for drug users human rights including the right to health. In a country where the HIV epidemic is largely driven by the sharing of used injecting equipment The Russian government does not only deny funding for this activity but, in February 2012, it banned the website of the NGO.
The Federal Drug Control Service accused the ARF of spreading "drug propaganda”, that is, advocating the use of an opiate substitute medicine, methadone. Opiate substitution therapy, an internationally recognized and widely used form of treatment that reduces crimes, deaths and disease, is banned in Russia.
The banning of the website outraged several international organizations, including the International AIDS Society, UNAIDS and Human Rights Watch. However, in answering questions at a press conference in Vienna last month, Mr. Ivanov said he is not considering lifting the ban, moreover, this time he did not only accuse ARF of advocating methadone treatment but of distributing methadone itself.
Early this month, the ARF launched a campaign to raise funds to buy a mobile van to reach disadvantaged young people on the streets of Moscow. The campaign, supported by Global Giving, calls attention to the lack of targeted interventions to prevent HIV among drug users in the Russian capital.
"If it wasn't for harm reduction, I don't know if I would still be alive. Today I help other drug users to protect themselves. Everyone should have access to lifesaving services, and a chance to live,” said Maxim Malyshev, a peer outreach worker at ARF.
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Read the full press release
Read ARF President Anya Sarang's call for support