Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dima Living with HIV in St. Petersburg, Russia

Dima had been on the streets of St. Petersburg for most of his teen years, living in abandoned buildings with other youth and skipping school. To survive on the street, youth often sell themselves for sex, steal, and use drugs to cope.  Despite engaging in behaviors that place them at high risk of HIV infection, neither Dima nor his friends had ever been tested for the virus. 
Dima was among the first participants in an HIV prevalence study conducted by HealthRight International (formerly Doctors of the World-USA), the CDC, and the City AIDS Center. After receiving free testing and counseling, he was diagnosed with HIV. At first Dima was unwilling to enroll in medical care, but the HealthRight outreach team convinced him to meet with counselors at a local partner organization’s Drop-in Center (DIC). With encouragement and support from DIC staff, Dima registered at the City AIDS Center and began HIV treatment.
Today, Dima visits the DIC regularly and remains healthy thanks to the treatment he receives at the City AIDS Center. Working closely with local groups including government agencies, HealthRight’s project for street and at-risk children and youth is reaching thousands of others like Dima, and saving their lives in the process. With a continuum of interventions including Drop-in Centers, halfway houses, a short-term shelter and outreach teams, children and youth who have been neglected and left on the street are being given the support and care they need to survive and the tools and hope to build a healthy future.