AHF Helps Patients above the Arctic Circle

AHF Russia recently received a letter of thanks from a high-ranking official in Norilsk. Norilsk, a part of Russia’s biggest region, Krasnoyarsk Krai, is the northernmost city in the world with a population of 170,000 people located nearly 3,000 km (1,900 miles) northeast of Moscow.

The temperature here, above the polar circle, can drop to as low as -64C (-83F) in the winter, and Northern Lights are a common occurrence. In this remote corner of the world AHF has been helping provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) and services to people living with HIV since 2015.

The letter was sent to AHF Russia by leadership of the Medical Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russian Federation in the Krasnoyarsk Krai (MDFPS). The colonel thanked AHF Russia for the ongoing collaboration in providing HIV services to inmates incarcerated in Norilsk. There are 47 prisons in Krasnoyarsk Krai, and the two prisons in Norilsk region are among the remotest prisons in the world. Total number of HIV positive inmates in Norilsk region is approximately 220 people.

As a result of the joint efforts of AHF Russia and the Medical Unit, 160 inmates have received counseling, 25 patients have begun ART and many more have received psychosocial support, HIV testing and information on prevention of HIV transmission. AHF Russia also supports the program by covering certain costs for laboratory and medical equipment.

“The results that were achieved due to our cooperation allowed us to solve a number of serious systematic problems and logistics issues of the provision of services for the HIV-infected patients to the facilities of the MDFPS in Norilsk, which is located more than 1,500 km (900 miles) away from the territorial center and is characterized by extremely difficult epidemiological situation with the incidence of HIV infection, drug addiction and tuberculosis,” Colonel wrote in the letter.

Due to the remoteness from the administrative center in Krasnoyarsk city, HIV positive inmates had lacked medical/laboratory and social services. In the past, inmates would be transferred to Krasnoyarsk by special flights every 5-6 months, so patients would have to wait 3-8 months for initiation of ART, which was only being done at the Krasnoyarsk city hospital. Since AHF started the project in two of Norilsk prisons, a doctor visits facilities every week and ART is initiated within 5-7 days of clinical indicators appearing in patients.

AHF Russia’s existing partnerships and positive outcomes of program implementation in the country, particularly in the Krasnoyarsk region, made the partnership with the penitentiary system possible. AHF Russia is committed to delivering quality HIV treatment and care to the clients regardless of where the care is received and will continue its work on improving the accessibility of HIV services for everybody who needs it in Russia.