Russian HIV activists arrested in Red Square for protesting drug stock-outs
On 15 September 2010, a demonstration in Moscow called for the end of interruptions of treatment for people living with HIV. Treatment interruptions started in April this year and have affected at least one quarter of Russias regions.
The activists came to Red Square to protest against a bureaucracy that will not guarantee uninterrupted supply of medicines for people living with HIV. As part of the protest, three women in white coats were walking a leashed man in a bear suit. They explained that this symbolised the official chaos and negligence. The leash on the bear represents the need to curb lawlessness. The protesters attracted the attention of Muscovites and tourists.
Many activists came from regions affected by the treatment stockouts. Soon after the demonstration started, the Federal Security Service arrived and detained the protestors.
The community press release stated We, people living with HIV, are tired of inhumane treatment by bureaucrats. They cannot or do not want to ensure timely supply of essential medicines that determine whether we live or die. We cannot afford to be hostages of laziness, incompetence and negligence – it is our right to live! Today we face a choice between dying quietly at home and drawing the attention of media and government. Silence for us means death!.
All the detainees have been released unharmed and will reportedly face administrative fines.
According to the Russias Federal AIDS Center, more than half a million people are diagnosed with HIV. Less than 50% of the 120,000 people who need treatment currently receive it.
For the last four years, they face interruptions of essential antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection. Those interruptions have irreversible consequences to our health and threaten our lives. Three lawsuits have been brought to court in Kazan, Moscow and Tula.
A website has been launched specifically to record absence of medicines in 2010, and includes reports stockouts of antiretroviral medicines in Ulyanovsk, Samara, Arkhangelsk, the Moscow Oblast, Vladimir, Kaliningrad, Saratov and other regions. Interruptions in prisons are recorded almost in all regions of Russia. http://www.pereboi.ru/stockouts/
The demonstration in Moscow achieved good media coverage including several central information agencies, like Russian Informational Agency NEWS (RIAN).
The evening press department of the Ministry of Health replied to the media with the press-release where it was stated in particular that there are currently no treatment interruptions in Russia.
This automatically means that activists in Russia will continue their fight for the rights to treatment.
This action was not held by one or two organisations, but by activists and NGOs from across Russia. People came to Moscow from all over the country to join the protest. In my opinion is very positive aspect of the action. Activists were united over the message and demands, highlighting that such widespread support and involvement demonstrates stock-outs are routinely reported in all those regions.