My HIV Education Mission to Russia
Today is the last official day of my trip, and probably the most important. Today I will participate in a press conference at the famed ITAR-TASS. It's a global news agency like Associated Press or Reuters—the fourth largest in the world and Russia's official news agency. So you can imagine the pressure I feel to convey all of the incredible stories I have heard and seen this past week.
I have been, in a sense, practicing for this press conference since the first time I spoke on a panel discussion in Yekaterinburg, which today seems like months ago. I don't yet consider myself an expert. But I have learned so much in the past week that I'm confident I can represent the people I have met and speak with my heart. My job will be to bring to life the issues facing youth in Russia. To speak for Irina and Natasha and Maris and the young mother who wouldn't share her name.
Sitting on the panel with me today are Jonathan Kamin, acting mission director for the Russia Mission of USAID in Moscow; Michael Grishnakov, State Duma deputy; Michael Gorbachev, country director for PSI Russia; and Elena Arutyunova, a director at PSI Russia. Our focus is on collaboration of government, business and nonprofit organizations in addressing the health challenges facing youth and vulnerable groups in Russia, and here in my home country, it's very important to have government support.
Nearly 20 new outlets are at the press conference—the most I have interacted with yet. They ask me a variety of questions, from whether I intend to rally other tennis professionals (my friends) to join this cause to whether I would accept a position as health minister of Russia if I were offered it.
I stay focused on the task at hand, letting the public know that HIV is a growing issue in Russia, that most infected are infected through injecting drugs and the population at greatest risk are Russia's youth. And, that there are proven programs that work, that partnership is the key—working with other nonprofits, international donors like USAID and in collaboration with the Russian government—each learning from the other, each teaching the other. I am pleased with how the press conference goes and with the response we have received. I am so honored to have been able to represent PSI and the many people it helps.
Time to say goodbye