A public-private partnership between the U.S. Government, HealthRight International and Johnson & Johnson was announced last month to prevent the spread of HIV and increase access to treatment and care among street children and other vulnerable youth in St. Petersburg, Russia. This newly-launched partnership builds on a previous collaboration between the U.S. Government and Johnson & Johnson, which established the first municipal drop-in center for street children and HIV-positive youth in St. Petersburg.
"We are very pleased to join Johnson & Johnson and HealthRight International in a partnership to reach the most vulnerable youth with critically needed HIV prevention messages and services," said Leon Waskin, U.S. Agency for International Development Director in Russia. "I also want to thank the government in St. Petersburg for their support for this effort, both in the past and going forward, which is so important for the project's success."
Over the past decade, Russia has experienced one of the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world. There are an estimated 10,000 street children and youth in St. Petersburg, many of whom struggle with substance abuse and other behaviors that increase their risk for HIV/AIDS. Studies have shown that this group in particular has high rates of HIV infection, as well as access to clinical treatment and care.
The U.S. Government, Johnson & Johnson, HealthRight International and its local partner, Doctors to Children, will reach 500 vulnerable youth in St. Petersburg with HIV prevention messages and a broad continuum of services, including mobile voluntary testing and referrals to treatment and care. The project will also develop a cadre of social workers trained in HIV prevention among street youth, and disseminate a package of HIV prevention best practices to government institutions and non-governmental organizations across the city.
"Partnerships such as this - engaging the local community, non-governmental organizations, private support, and public support from both the Russian and U.S. Governments - is exactly the formula we need to ensure that children and youth in crisis not only get assistance today, but have a real chance at a future," said HealthRight Executive Director Tom Dougherty. "These projects take time and investment, but the pay-off is well worth it."
Naira Adamian, Managing Director for Janssen-Cilag Russia, the pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson in Russia, agreed.
"Investing in children infected or affected by the disease is a key strategy within our HIV/AIDS philanthropy portfolio," Adamian said.
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