InterviewErstelldatum 25/06/01 14:52 AAA A-1-91-A-22-Mosco-centre- (OA) (E)  

Interview with Igor Yezhivkov,
Director of Moscow's Centre for Medical and Psychological Assistance/ Crocus Anti-Aids+,
conducted in Prague, 21- 26 October 1991

C.M-S: Well, what does that [Centre for Medical and Psychological Assistance/ Crocus Anti-Aids+] all mean ?!
I.Y: We are already a big organisation in Moscow which is fighting in the field against AIDS. We have 3 projects in our programme. For 2 months now we have had two emergency telephone lines for people with Aids, HIV+ people, for people with Aids-phobias or other phobias to do with sexually transmitted diseases, for other psychological problems, and especially for sexual problems.
We provide sexual education for students, and especially young people, and all the problems connected with aids in the (ex) Soviet Union, because our lines can be reached from all over the ex Soviet Union. So we are an "all-nation" line. The lines work from 9 am. till 9 pm everyday -free of charge of course, and from November 1991 we plan to operate 24 hours a day.

C.M-S: What are your biggest problems in connection with Aids in the (ex) Soviet Union?
I.Y: There are many problems. The first problem is one of information; the second is medical and the third is the law - the very inhuman laws affecting people with HIV, Aids, - especially for so-called high-risk groups - prostitutes, homosexuals and drug-users.
Information: There is no good information about the reality of Aids. There are some articles in the newspapers, but they are all very "angry" - and very unreal, inaccurate. We are very worried about these problems because no-one knows the truth of the reality of Aids and STD's in the ex-Soviet Union. They don't know what sexuality is in the Soviet Union.
Our famous Psychologist Igor Kon during a gay conference in Moscow, said, "Imagine a non-Soviet "consciousness" is post-Kinsey [US sexologist - C.M-S]. the the Soviet national consciousness is pre-Freud !"

2nd Problem: - medical. There are many problems with medical "culture". Some doctors and nurses ask me if they can use throw-away syringes twice. In Russian they call these a "one-use syringe". But still they ask if it is possible to use them 2 or 3 times. When I said emphatically "NO !". They reply, "But in principal we can use them again." -- "IN PRINCIPAL NO! Lives are much more valuable than these throw-away syringes."
So you see we even have to educate the medical personnel, nurses etc. Besides there is the problem of equipment, syringes and needles etc. for our hospitals.

3rd Problem: The question of the inhuman laws. There are the so-called high risk groups. No-one knows the reality about them. No-one wants to be punished with five to seven years imprisonment. If someone is homosexual and admits it, formally the authorities can throw him into prison.
Prostitution - which, of course exists, but the authorities don't want to recognise this reality. -- But to work among them we must know how many they are, where they are, and it MUST be de-criminalised -prostitution. Then there is the inhuman law against people with Aids and HIV. It could cost them five years in prison if anyone with HIV has sexual contact with another person, or goes to the health or dental service, and doesn't tell them he is HIV+ - if during treatment they confirm he is HIV+, he can be sent to prison. This is an impossible situation.

If you deliberately infect someone, it is a good idea to punish these people - , but if doctors don't protect themselves while they are working ....Why should anyone else protect them? So these are all very big problems in Russia - still.

No real, active, good programme in the ex-Soviet Union - because of the bureaucracy. There is something like a soviet Aids mafia.
I persisted for one year in the Soviet health ministry trying to get them to publish -good leaflet about safer sex and aids, and the real situation of aids. They called me a pornographic author, because I explained all the ways HIV can be transmitted sexually. They said this is PORNO ! - and even our bureaucrats don't KNOW what porno is. What is porno ? What is sexuality ? They think kissing is a sexual act !

C.M-S: And how is the difficult social and political situation affecting your work ?
I. Y.: People with HIV - maybe 50% are gay men. If you know this problem of gay and HIV men, at the same time, it is a very big problem. People are thrown out of work because some doctors have passed on information about their illness to their place of work. If someone is homosexual they must hide the fact, and not be open about it. If someone is HIV+ they must be doubly careful, of course.

C.M-S: What is your opinion of Yeltsin - is he perhaps more progressive in these matters - or is he typically Russian?
I.Y.: Yeltsin was the first politician to give money for the fight against AIDS. During his visit to America he, two or 3 years ago, he gave lectures in universities all over America, and they paid him much money - maybe as much as 100,000 dollars. He used all this money to buy one-million one-use syringes. I hope very much the new Russian government, and especially Mr. Yeltsin can pay more attention to our problems.
Yeltsin is responsible for Russian territory and I hope he will carry out a programme in the field of the fight against Aids. Our centre is preparing a special proposal to the Russian government to get them to pay more attention to these problems.

C.M-S: Do you know anything about the situation in the non-Russian republics?
I.Y: Maybe the situation is the same or worse. In Moscow there are more hospitals, services and information available. In the rest of the ex-Soviet Union there is nothing.

If you have heard anything about the first big three epidemics among children in the Soviet Union. One was in Rostov, near Elista, and near Volgograd. They are Russian but a long way from Moscow - near the Caucasus.

They were caused by dirty syringes, but I understand the situation well. I don't blame anyone in their situation because twe must punish only the system. Imagine nurses, maybe some old woman, who gets 150 Roubles a month -then about 10 dollars - per months. She had maybe 50 children in the infectious diseases department. Each baby should be injected about 5 or 6 times a day. If we calculate this number - that may mean 300 injections a day. Imagine - if they have glass syringes and she must sterilise them - how many times ? - It is more than impossible. The system didn't make money available - but they had plenty of money. The system was impotent not only sexually impotent. Who is the criminal? The nurse ? Not the nurse. If i was in her position and as tired as a guard dog for a month, I might do the same thing.

Not well-paid, no good equipment, no syringes, no time, In my opinion no doctors, no nurses are criminals here. The criminals are only those responsible for the system where no-one wants to be responsible.

Colin de la Motte-Sherman

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