Ministry of Justice to tighten the rules for NGOs working with HIV
A new draft law initiated by the Federation’s Ministry of Justice will make the work of NGOs involved in HIV prevention and who receive foreign funding more difficult. The Bill, which has been published on the legal documents’ section of the Russian Government’s website, states that NGOs must submit details of their current HIV prevention programmes to Russian State authorities. These will then be subject to a four-week review period which will determine whether projects should be banned or approved. Any organisation which ignores or breaches any imposed ban will be threatened with closure, according to Meduza.
Foreign funding under the Bill is defined as money received from both international companies and private citizens. The authors believe that the draft legislation “will improve the effectiveness of national HIV monitoring undertaken with the help of foreign funding”.
Commenting on the Ministry’s proposals, Anton Krasovsky, Director of the charity AIDS Centre, said “The law appears to be directed solely at HIV-service NGOs. The State has a crass attitude towards the fight against AIDS, viewing it as aggressive and an interference in its internal affairs, while people involved in test trials costing, say 100,000 roubles, are regarded as traitors. Well, what can one say? If they are going to close one charity, then they’ll close us all”.
In an interview with journalists at the AIDS Centre, Maxim Malyshev, a member of the Rylkov Foundation, called the Ministry’s proposals an act of genocide and a death sentence for organisations involved in work on reducing harm and HIV prevention among vulnerable groups such as the LGBT community and drug users.
Malyshev said that the Ministry of Health was not carrying out any research on prevention, adding that organisations currently involved in HIV work find it impossible to turn down Western grants as Russian subsidies are simply not available for this type of effort.
Official statistics show that 98,111 newly infected HIV patients were registered in 2015, with 102,179 and 104,402 recorded in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Kommersant reports that 1.2% of Russia’s 15-49 age group have AIDS, according to estimates from the Federal Scientific and Methodological Centre for AIDS Prevention.
At the same time, speaking at a meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States’ Health Cooperation Council in Saransk on 4 September, the Federation’s Health Minister, Veronika Skvortsova, reported that a strategy for combatting HIV was being developed at national level.
“The first thing to say is that this is an awareness-raising document. Protecting yourself is easy. All you have to do is take the necessary precautions. We have been doing some work with the student community where we have already started to see positive results. The number of HIV cases in this group has fallen sharply over the past two years, from 12 to 3%. I believe we should test people free of charge. We are now providing free treatment to all those infected, which means that people are now able to live for years, leading a normal life and having children, according to Skvortsova’s journal Stolitza S.
It should be remembered that eight HIV service NGOs were classed as “foreign agents” in 2016. The Biysk organisation Choice was added to the list in 2017 and the Kazan-based Timur Islamov Foundation the following year.