20% of women in Russian prisons live with a diagnosis of HIV. Our heroines sat in different years: in the nineties, when HIV was a sentence, and nowadays. Some of them live openly, others hide their status. Their stories, supplemented by statistics, documents and comments from experts, shed light on the situation of HIV people in the Russian penal system.This is still a very stigmatized and unpopular topic in Russia. Therefore, we made a project on the intersection of discrimination.
The audience was able to learn about the situation of women living with HIV and tuberculosis in Russian prisons, the main problems faced by such prisoners, and the available statistics. A separate sub-project, unfortunately, not translated into English, is devoted to the manipulation of prison statistics of covid in Russian prisons and repressive measures of the state against those who question it.The publication was warmly received by both civil society and prisoners and their families. The combination of real stories, documents and numbers – makes it possible to immerse yourself in the problem and reduce stigma towards women prisoners living with HIV, as well as drug users. Unfortunately, there is no certainty that the experts’ recommendations will be taken into account and implemented by the prison department in the short term, but this is work for the future.
Collection and analysis of scattered statistics: both from the official website of the Federal Penitentiary Service, and from scattered publications in the media and materials of non-governmental organizations. Interviews with former prisoners and experts. Analysis of documentation.
What was the hardest part of this project?
In both parts of the project, the hardest part was finding reliable information about prisons. The available statistics are very episodic and small, sometimes downright manipulative. Without knowing the specifics of the prison system, without talking to many heroines, and without studying the documents, it is almost impossible to give the reader an adequate idea of what is happening in the prison system with HIV, tuberculosis and coronavirus.The second problem concerns the new repressive legislation in Russia on “coronavirus fakes”. Any publications that deal with this topic and question the official statistics can lead to an administrative or criminal case against journalists. A number of NGOs and media projects in Russia writing about this topic received huge fines and the threat of a criminal sentence. Nevertheless, our volunteer project considered it its duty to research this socially important topic, taking into account new challenges, and share this information with the public.
What can others learn from this project?
About the situation in Russian prisons with HIV, tuberculosis and coronavirus, prison medicine and manipulative statistics, repressions against people with diseases, drug users, journalists and activists raising the topic, human rights violations and stigmatization.