Saturday, August 1, 2009

New Halfway House Supports HIV-Positive Street Youth In Russia

Innovative project reaches out to HIV-positive, drug-involved youth

Street youth in St. Petersburg waiting

to meet with members of the

HealthRight street outreach team.

Photo by Tanya Grishanova.

ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - Aleksandra ran away from home to escape physical abuse when she was just eight years old.  With no one to turn to for help, she spent almost a decade on the streets, where she began using heroin and engaged in commercial sex to survive.  At seventeen, Aleksandra was diagnosed as being HIV-positive. 

But things have begun to change.  In 2008, Aleksandra became a resident of a new halfway house designed to serve HIV-positive, drug-involved youth in St. Petersburg.  The halfway house was created by HealthRight and its local partner, Doctors to Children (DTC), to address the growing HIV epidemic among street youth and the lack of essential services available to them. 

HealthRight met Aleksandra when she visited a HealthRight/DTC drop-in center for street and at-risk children and youth.  At the drop-in center, she was provided with support that enabled her to accept her HIV diagnosis and take action to stay healthy.  Aleksandra’s move to the halfway house builds on the progress she has made and brings her much closer to living a healthy, independent life. 

The new halfway house provides residents with a range of services – from counseling to regular medical treatment – designed to help them overcome substance abuse and cope with the challenges of living with HIV.  The halfway house also provides residents with educational opportunities to ensure they have the skills to succeed once they transition to independent living.

“This halfway house is an effective response to the specific needs of street youth,” HealthRight Regional Director Roman Yorick said.  “We assist these youth not only to overcome their substance abuse, but also so that they may live with HIV in a supportive, healthy environment.”

Since 1993, HealthRight has provided comprehensive medical, mental health, and social services to thousands of street and at-risk children and youth in St. Petersburg, Russia.