On a sunny day last month, parents, grandparents and children gathered outside in parks and on city squares in St. Petersburg, Russia to enjoy a warm day together and celebrate the National Family Day.
Amid the festive landscape of balloons, rock bands, jugglers and performances by a folk dance ensemble in traditional costumes, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Russia offered HIV rapid testing at a mobile testing unit to passersby in partnership with the St. Petersburg AIDS Center and NGO Diakonia.
During the event, the head of the AIDS Center Prof. Denis Gusev, AHF Russia Country Program Manager Natalia Mironova and the Director of Diakonia Elena Rydalevskaya spoke to the media about the importance of regular HIV testing and keeping the promise to stop the HIV epidemic.
“It is very important to have such actions, aimed to inform general population. It is a different from working with the risk groups,” said Prof. Gusev. “In order for people to remember about this problem, to realize that it can effect anyone and that it is important to test for HIV – that is why we get together, gather artists, and promote HIV prevention.”
About 42,000 St. Petersburg residents are currently living with HIV. Events in connection with Family Day help reduce misconceptions associated with rapid HIV testing and increase awareness among the city’s population. St. Petersburg has one of the largest HIV testing programs in Russia, with more than 6,500 people tested this year by AHF and partner organizations.
“The theme for this event was ‘Stop HIV, Keep the Promise,’” said Mironova. “This is a message to policy makers, but it’s also a message for us. We can defeat HIV by keeping the promise to test for HIV to ensure we know our status and get treatment if needed.”
Out of 173 people tested during the event, 4 received positive results. Both first-time HIV positive clients were linked to AHF-supported AIDS Center. AHF has been working in Russia since 2009 and provides service to 25,950 clients in partnership with government healthcare facilities.