Ukraine: ASTAU Adds Blogging Workshop for Members

The Association of the Substitution Treatment Advocates of Ukraine (ASTAU) was created in 2009 and currently unites harm reduction activists from almost all the regions of Ukraine. The Rising Voices grantee project the Drop-In Center is part of this association. Most of the members are people who live with drug addiction and who are patients of opiate replacement therapy. The goals of the Association are to fight against stigma and discrimination of people living with drug addiction, to promote the idea of substitution therapy in Ukrainian society thus, reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, TB and Hepatitis C epidemics. The Association advocates for the interests of the patients of opiate replacement therapy in government and health care authorities and provides various kinds of support to its members. In 2011, members of the ASTAU have taken part in a number of citizen media workshops as a way to share their personal stories. The activists of the association consider blogging to be a very effective tool to achieve some of these goals.

2nd ASTAU ConferencePoster, photo from ASTAU web-site

In our e-mail interview with the head of the Association, Olga Beliayeva talks about why the Association was established and how it helps its members. She also discusses how citizen media has helped in promoting the idea of substitution therapy in Ukraine and how blogging could help the replacement therapy patients to better express themselves.

Answering a question on the history of the Association, Olga said:

Идея родилась на одном из тренингов в Днепропетровске, когда утром пациенты ЗПТ  из других городов получали лекарство на нашем сайте. Сразу же завязались жаркие разговоры  о самых волнующих темах в жизни каждого, чье спокойствие зависит от приема лекарств.  Люди не могли поверить в то, что в нашем городе работают и рецепты и беспрерывность. Изначально мы создавали Ассоциацию, чтобы закрепить достижения Днепропетровска по всей Украине.  Вот так мы увидели, сколько людей готовы учиться и работать, чтобы изменить свою жизнь. 

The idea of the Association was generated during one of the training sessions in Dnepropetrovsk when one morning, the patients from other cities came to our site to receive a medication. We started a hot debate on topics of concerns for people whose well-being depends on daily intake of a medication. The people could not believe that in our city, both the provision of medication through a pharmacy and continuity of [Methadone] treatment while staying in a hospital exist. So, originally we created our association to spread good practices throughout Dnepropetrovsk and in other regions of Ukraine. Then, we realized how many people are ready to work to change their lives for the better.

Olga also talked about the association's accomplishments:

Когда есть где собирать и обобщать опыт, единичные случаи выстраиваются в стройную систему. Люди видят свои победы и что их усилия не напрасны. А кто еще разделит радость, как не такой же как ты сам. Только за сентябрь в двух регионах участники ЗТ добились обеспечения беспрерывности лечения и это вдохновляет других не жаловаться, что все плохо, а действовать самому, делая свою жизнь комфортнее и спокойнее.

When there is a platform where you can collect and summarize the experiences, the single fact transforms into a logical system. The people see their victories and understand that their efforts bring results.  And the best way to share your happiness is to share it with like-minded people.

Sharing these experiences with like-minded, as well as those that may not agree with their mission are some of the reasons why the ASTAU added citizen media to the programs offered to its members. The ASTAU website has a section where each member can start his or her own blog. Those activists who were interested in becoming a citizen journalists could participate in a special training in on-line story telling. Talking about why blogging is important for the patients, Olga said:

Блоги могут быть исключительно полезны для формирования внешнего имиджа пациентов ЗПТ. Например, пишет журналист материал, гуглит и выходит на блог и видит не отписки чиновников, не умные слова медиков, а реальных людей, которые пишут о своих проблемах и их решениях, о радостях и печалях. А если блог тематический, как в нашем случае, комментарии могут оказаться весьма полезными. И для самого блогера дневник – это возможность посмотреть на себя со стороны. Что задумывал, чего добился, своеобразная социальная интерент-терапия.

Blogs can be very useful for forming a positive image of patients of substitution therapy. For example, a journalist working on an article uses Google finds a blog where he can read not just official documents or ‘smart’ words of doctors, but words of real people who post about their problems, ways to solve them, their joys and sorrows.  If a blog follows a particular topic, then even comments to a blog posts could be very useful. Having a blog gives the patients an opportunity to look at themselves from a different angle, to post on a diary what was planned, what was achieved, so it is a sort of social Internet therapy.


  • […] I would join the Association, I did not even know about its existence. When I came to meet with Olga [Olga Beliayeva, the head of the Association] and when I saw my portrait published in the […]

  • We should talk about the women and children’s issues and strive for their release and rehabilitation in their native countries especially the sex salves women and the girlls in the heart of Europe for the last 20 years.
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    The Message,Pakistan.

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