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Drop-In Center: New Awareness Program Launched

HIV/AIDS Awarness Displays, Kyiv, Ukraine

HIV/AIDS awareness displays in Kiev, Ukraine

Pavel Kutsev, leader of the Ukrainian harm reduction movement and director of the organization Drop-In Center, has been blogging about a new HIV/AIDS awareness program.

His organization, Drop-In Center, recently started the program in Kiev, Ukraine, which is focused on raising awareness among injection drug users about HIV/AIDS. The organization's activists put informational displays in pharmacies that are commonly frequented by drug users.

Here is what Pavel wrote about the initiative:

These displays, made by our own hands, have been placed in a few Kiev “depots” (pharmacies). Not in big fancy pharmacies, but in small and quiet drug stores that injection drug addicts usually visit. You often find corrupted policemen standing next to the entrance of such drug stores, hoping to get some cash from a drug addict coming in to buy a syringe. Volunteers of religious organizations, who often hunt for souls there, see everything but prefer not to intervene. Why do they stay there then? We carefully considered this situation and decided that awareness displays about harm reduction among injection drug users would be a very effective intervention on our part.

Besides nice pictures, the displays contain a “social city map” with telephone numbers and addresses of useful organizations where drug users can receive real help. This information includes prices and addresses of private detox centers and contacts of public HIV-servicing organizations where drug users can confidentially gain various types of assistance, from referrals to medical establishments to being provided with aid such as vitamins, medications, and the exchange of syringes. Most services in such organizations are provided by volunteers who are also HIV positive.

The displays will contain awareness literature on HIV/AIDS issues, including various booklets, leaflets, flyers, brochures, and business cards. Pharmacists will take care of these displays and add new booklets when needed.

It's our secret regarding who has given us official approval to cooperate with the owners of these small drug stores, but we can guarantee that our project won't harm our clients in any way, it will only benefit them by providing useful information.

At the end of his post Pavel writes about other ways that these small drug stores can be beneficial to drug users:

By the way, I believe that this idea of street-based syringe exchange programs (when drug users can trade used syringes for sterile ones for free) are totally out-of-date. There should be permanent sites where drug users can receive syringes and antiseptic napkins, and these small drug stores could serve as such sites. This practice of permanent sites works very well in many European countries and I am sure it will work well in Kiev.

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