“Overwhelming and Inspiring”
09 October 2007
Rupert Everett, the film and theatre actor (My Best Friend’s Wedding, Another Country), and Special Representative of UNAIDS visited Moscow and St Petersburg 23 – 26 September, to learn more about AIDS and tuberculosis in Russia and to help raise awareness about these two important, inter-linked diseases.
“I’m very grateful to everyone in Moscow and in St Petersburg who took the time to meet and share their experiences with me,” said Mr Everett at the end of his visit.
“It has been a very busy three days: overwhelming and inspiring. Denial, pre-existing stigma and prejudices are nourished by the presence of HIV and TB in society as a whole. These are powerful forces that act as roadblocks on the journey towards an effective response to the spread of HIV and TB.
”Rupert Everett has been active in the AIDS response for many years, but this was his first official trip with UNAIDS since his appointment as Special Representative in December 2006.
UNAIDS regional director, Bertil Lindblad, welcomed Rupert Everett’s visit as a way to help focus on key areas of the Russian response.
“People in the public eye like Rupert Everett can inspire and motivate others to unite against AIDS.
”During the first part of his visit, he visited the Republic Clinical Hospital for the Treatment of Infectious Diseases just outside St. Petersburg. The centre treats children who have been abandoned and / or are living with HIV.
Dr. Evgeny Voronin, the Chief Physician of the hospital and Head of the National Clinical Centre for Children’s AIDS, explained:
”There are about 2000 children in Russia today who are HIV positive. The main problem is integrating these children into regular social life and providing them with qualitative education so they can fully develop,” he said.
In St, Petersburg Everett and the UNAIDS team met with staff and outreach workers of “LaSky”, a project supported by PSI (Population Services International), the Global Fund and the Ford Foundation, providing information and prevention services among men who have sex with men. The meeting was held in one of the most popular gay clubs in St. Petersburg and the group shared their experiences and challenges in reaching out to young gay men in 10 regions of Russia.
At St Petersburg City Infectious Hospital N30, Rupert Everett met doctors and learned about working with injecting drug users who are living with HIV. He also heard from representatives of the non-governmental organization Humanitarian Action and other activist groups who provide HIV prevention services as well as support for people living with HIV. Humanitarian Action also arranged a field visit for Everett to one of its outreach sites where prevention services, including needle exchange and counseling, are provided in a fully equipped bus serving several parts of St. Petersburg.
The number of officially registered people living with HIV in Russia in May 2007 was approximately 386,000. However it is widely believed that the actual number could be up to 1.1 million.
Traveling on to Moscow, Everett met with representatives of a network of people living with HIV, NGO practitioners, UNAIDS Cosponsoring agencies and volunteers.
HIV and tuberculosis are closely linked, each worsening the impact of the other and disproportionately affecting the poorest and most marginalized people in society. According to the World Health Organization, TB is the leading cause of death in people living with HIV in Russia, accounting for 59% of such deaths in 2006. Most of those who died were between the ages of 25 and 34.
In Moscow, Mr Everett visited the Centre for TB treatment at the Moscow Clinical TB Hospital N7, met with staff and children being treated at the hospital as well as representatives of the Ministry of Health TB Programme and WHO which supports comprehensive TB activities in Russia.
At the end of his visit, the actor spoke of his hopes to develop his support:”I hope that UNAIDS can continue to play an active part in the future to bring the government, the NGOs and the advocacy groups closer together in a united response to AIDS and TB.”
Read more about UNAIDS' Special Representatives