From April 2017 to May 2020, with the support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, a pilot project of social and legal support for people who inject drugs was carried out in St. Petersburg in order to improve health outcomes, specifically along the HIV testing, treatment, and care cascade. The results of the project are presented in this report.
In just three years, the project, implemented by five full-time social workers with the support of part-time lawyers, reached 968 people, 615 of whom received antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 288 of whom achieved a stable, undetectable viral load.
The project resulted in more than $127,920 USD per year in savings by preventing treatment interruptions or changes to treatment regimens, demonstrating that the costs of developing and implementing social and legal support services can be recouped within 1.5 years. Longer projects will show even greater efficacy, as many clients need long-term support to start ART and adhere to treatment.
The project illustrates the importance of including a component of social and legal support in work done with key populations to prevent and treat HIV infection. Social and legal support, with the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), is recommended as one of the key components for implementing the National HIV Strategy in the Russian Federation.