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Russia gives funding to HIV organisation to fund prevention programme despite its homophobic history

The money will help fund a HIV prevention program for men who have sex with men

By Steve Brown

A HIV organisation was left shocked when the Russian government granted it funding for a HIV prevention program for men who have sex with men.

The government is set to give 100,000 rubles – which equals to roughly £1,197.87 – to the To Live program in the country’s fourth largest city Yekaterinburg and the money was given to acknowledge that not much federal spending had gone towards LGBT+ sexual health.

Russia is renowned for its homophobic history including the 2013 gay propaganda law and the government recently shut down a website dedicated to HIV and sexual health information.

To Live’s director Nadezhda Dernova told Current Time: “We decided to apply for funding for the target group of men who have sex with men, because this is a very discriminated against group, and this group is difficult to find money for.

“To be honest, I didn’t believe right up until the last moment that we would win the grant, but the guys who worked with me were confident that we would win.”

The staff at the organisation have pledged to start education programs in bars and in businesses while also targeting vulnerable groups to offer rapid HIV testing.

It’s reported that the infection is on the rise in the country with almost two-thirds of Europe’s new HIV cases coming from Russia.

Vitaly Melkovsky, an openly gay man living with HIV, said: “We are losing the war in Yekaterinburg, because there is one story about the epidemic in Yekaterinburg, the huge number of people who live with HIV, and there is another story about stigma and discrimination.”