HIV-service organizations and the LGBT community of the Russian Federation are demanding to stop blocking websites sites about health and HIV. The relevant petition addressed to the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Communications of Russia can be signed on change.org.
The Russian Coalition of HIV-Service Organizations and LGBT Communities represented by the Coordinating Committee is seriously concerned with the current trends of blocking the websites and information portals that work with the population to foster health and HIV prevention awareness. On April 28 it became known that Roskomnadzor intends to include a portal about LGBT health and relationships “Parni+ (Guys+)” in the list of banned websites. The notice received from the state agency indicates that Roskomnadzor intends to do this upon the ruling of the Burlinsky District Court of the Altai Territory on January 26, 2018.
Let’s also remind that in late March, Russian authorities blocked the Gay.ru LGBT portal of Russia, because of “propaganda of homosexuality among minors”. In turn, the State Duma MP Vitaliy Milonov requested the prosecutor’s office to close the website of the AIDS CENTER Foundation.
All of the above sites to some extent were engaged in informing people from key populations about HIV prevention methods, the possibility of anonymous testing, and also about life with HIV. Moreover, they were doing it without any state support. Instead of obtaining approval and assistance, the administrations of these resources had only repressive actions imposed on them by state structures.
“The situation with the blocking of the portal, which had been informing about the ways of preventing and living with HIV for more than 10 years, is just another link in the chain of events aimed at infringing the rights of LGBT communities and people living with HIV”, the Coordinating Committee of the Russian Coalition of HIV-service Organizations and LGBT Communities believes.
These actions take place on the background of the disastrous situation with the spread of HIV in Russia, including among key populations. For example, some research organizations estimate HIV prevalence among MSM (men who have sex with men) at 14-16% on average. In some major cities, like St. Petersburg and Moscow, the level reaches 22%. Thus, the number of MSM with HIV in the country is about 560 thousand.
The Ministry of Health and Rospotrebnadzor of the Russian Federation note the importance of interaction with NGOs, as only they have proper access to key populations, which makes it possible to effectively implement prevention programs, and an important emphasis was placed on this in the State Strategy of Combating the Spread of HIV in Russia. At the same time, various state bodies constantly interfere with the work of public organizations, including them in the register of “foreign agents” and/or blocking access to information resources.
“Is there a government-run information portal about HIV in Russia that every day works hard, reprinting news from around the world, publishes interviews, tells personal stories, maintains at least some statistics and comparative characteristics of drugs, helps people to accept their HIV status, holds lectures, seminars, meetings? There is no such resource, but “AIDS.CENTER” and “Parni +” undertake this work”, says Yevgeny Pisemskyi, Chairman of the “PHOENIX PLUS” civil society association.
Anyone can sign the petition against the prosecution and blocking of sites at the link.
People should receive unhindered information in order to protect themselves and their loved ones from infection or be able to live a full-fledged and long life with HIV. “If the situation is allowed to continue the way it does now, then in the near future the consequences will be quick to come as frequent cases of infection. Therefore, we call on Russian and international HIV-service and LGBT organizations to sign this statement in order to draw attention of the Government of the Russian Federation and directly the Chairman of the Government D.Medvedev, who signed the State Strategy for Combating the Spread of HIV in the Russian Federation until 2020, to the current situation” , the petition authors indicate.