My HIV Education Mission to Russia
The place is a hopeful place, somewhere young people want to be—this is where they hang out. It's what Spartak Tennis Club was for me when I was growing up in Moscow. It's smart, because they are there by choice and the information they receive about HIV and drug use is done in a very natural, open and nonthreatening way. Something we need more of in Russia (and everywhere, for that matter).
My next stop is at another PTU, where we will officially launch the youth center program. We are greeted by kids who are rapping. It's so amazing. They are really good, and I don't want to leave. I ask them to sing another song and a crowd of students gathers. It's a highlight of my day, and it's really cool to see them using their talents and being so creative.
I take a quick tour and head upstairs for a panel discussion and press briefing. I am a little nervous, but the remarks are well received and my fellow panelists are smart, dedicated people. I am glad to see a lot of press here. Hopefully, we have sent a clear message about the importance of these programs.
In Russian tradition, we go outside and plant a tree. I love this tradition. It represents a new beginning and hope for the future.
We join the kids in the cafeteria for lunch and to talk more. As I spoke to some of the kids at lunch, they were truly inspirational. I could see the fire in their eyes and the desire to improve their lives.
As we get ready to leave, the DJ plays a song by Enrique, and the kids start to rap again. They know that his music draws my attention. Pretty smart of them, right?
We say goodbye and head for the van.
I get a couple hours of rest before I head out for the mobile outreach program for injecting drug users. It's a van that has built-in shelves for clean needles, testing equipment, condoms and a small table for counseling. The van shows up at the same place every day so people know where to come.
Trying to end the stigma of HIV testing