The city of Chelyabinsk in Russia recently hosted the National Figure Skating Championship, where AHF Russia provided over 300 HIV tests to attendees in partnership with the Chelyabinsk Region AIDS Center and a local organization called “There’s an Opinion!’
The event took place on Dec. 23-25 at the Tractor Ice Hockey Arena. The activity was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Department of Youth Welfare of Chelyabinsk Region. The rapid HIV testing booth was set up in a corner of the ice arena dubbed “The Territory of Health,” which also featured testing booths for blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Among the health services offered at the arena, HIV testing proved to be the most popular booth, attracting almost twice as many clients. Of the 325 people tested during the Championship, two received HIV positive results. These clients will be linked to care and treatment.
“It was the first and very interesting experience of working with rapid HIV testing at such level,” said Sergey Avdeev, Head of the Department of Youth Welfare of the Chelyabinsk Region. “It was very useful, and we hope that all large sporting events in Chelyabinsk in 2017 will feature HIV testing.”
Figure skating is very popular in Russia. AHF Russia staff members say that availability of HIV rapid testing at the Championship will help promote its uptake and increase HIV awareness among the visitors.
The latest effort by AHF and its Chelyabinsk partners aims to make HIV testing a commonplace practice for the general population of Chelyabinsk region. This includes testing at the largest shopping malls, street testing, and events organized during the International Condom Day, World AIDS Day, and Russian and European Testing Weeks.
Anna, a fourth year medical student who was invited to work at the event by the Ministry of Health said she was surprised by how prominent HIV testing has become in Chelyabinsk. “You test at public events, at gay clubs, shopping malls, in parks and on the street, everywhere,” she said. “I have asked three of my friends to test, and tested myself. I will be glad to volunteer in the future and bring as many people as I can to test – it is very important.”
Cooperation with the government agencies provides added access to media coverage from regional TV and radio stations, and from Internet-based news portals. With more than 9,500 people tested this year and a sero-positivity rate of 4.3%, Chelyabinsk is one of the largest AHF testing programs in Russia.
AHF also distributed informational leaflets about HIV and condoms along with Keep the Promise branded materials.