Last week, AHF’s newest HIV mobile testing unit (MTU) hit the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia to bring free and accessible testing to residents of the city and the surrounding Leningrad Oblast (county).
The MTU, adorned in the colors of the Russian flag and a slogan calling on people to get tested, is the first of its kind in the country, and is a part of the new global 20×20 campaign. The campaign aims to get 20 million HIV positive people around the world on antiretroviral treatment by 2020, and scaling up testing is an integral part of achieving that goal.
Services like this MTU are particularly needed in Russia. UNAIDS estimates that two-thirds of the region’s people living with HIV reside here, and together with Ukraine these two countries account for 90% of newly registered cases of HIV in Eastern Europe and According to Igor Sobolev, AHF Europe Prevention, Testing and Linkage Manager, the MTU will work with the most at-risk populations and in smaller towns, where access to HIV testing is limited.
“People will have a convenient opportunity to learn their HIV status free of charge,” Sobolev said. “Those few minutes that it takes to do the test will go a long way in helping HIVpositive people to start lifesaving treatment earlier.”
AHF jointly operates the MTU with local partner Humanitarian Action Fund. The director of Humanitarian Action, Sergei Dugin, praised the design as a great marketing move.
“A testing van like this is visible from far away and it attracts clients, which in turn will help us increase testing coverage and ultimately save more lives,” Dugin added.
AHF Ukraine and Russia Advocacy Manager Denis Godlevskiy and Anastasia Solovyeva, AHF’s Russia Country Program Manager, both agree: they think the tri-color design could become a standard look for testing programs throughout Russia.
“Equipping our projects with the latest gear moves us even closer to achieving our goal. It makes our work more effective and testing more comfortable for the clients and the testing team,” Solovyeva said. “This is an innovative model for Russia and a critical factor in reaching 20×20.”