Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
Estonia is a small country, 1 360 000 inhabitants. Former Soviet republic now it is democratic independent country, member of the EU. Economic situation of people is still hard, prices are almost the same as in Western Europe, salaries 5-6 times less. The huge HIV epidemic in Estonia broke out in September 2000 from Russian border in the eastern part of the country (Narva). Most of HIV positives were IDU-s. Owing to the widespread needle exchange program, the intensity of the epidemic has diminished. If in 2001 1474 cases were discovered, then in 2010 the corresponding number was 372. Nevertheless, Estonia still holds the first place in Europe in the spread of the HIV infection. The most affected areas today are Tallinn and eastern part of the country. If in previous years the infection spread among IDU-s through sharing dirty needles, then today its transmission sexually is on the rise.
On September, 02 2011, 7949 HIV cases had been registered in Estonia, among them 342 cases of AIDS. Till now people aged 15-30 are dominated. The society was not ready to support such sensitive projects as HIV prevention of IDUs, sex-workers, gay people, support of HIV positive people. It took several years to change the attitudes of the society and policy makers, but till now stigma and discrimination of those groups still exist. Increasing of opiate using was new phenomena in middle 90-s in Estonia, and all our new activities (needle exchange, Methadone Maintenance, rehabilitation of IDU-s, HIV prevention in Prisons) met extraordinary resistance in the society and among politicians. In poor society help to marginalized groups of people was not popular. Last years new trends are in the field of drug using: more and more women are involved to opiate using. In whole country there were no places for rehabilitation of women-IDU-s. Our center started with women rehabilitation in the farm house in 2009 with help of the USA Embassy. Practically all our projects at the beginning were innovative and creative for our country, despite everything we continued the work and now our activities are acceptable among governmental and local politician and decision makers.
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
Our organization started to work in 1994. All our activities were occasioned by the situation in society. In the beginning of the 90-s prostitution started to be a problem in Estonia and we started with our first and till now sole project "HIV and STD testing, counseling and STD treatment of Commercial Sex-Workers. February, 1994" In the middle of the 90-s epidemic of injecting drug using and in 2000 huge epidemic of HIV started in Estonia . It was urgent need to start with several projects helping IDUs. We were the first who started the following projects in Estonia:
• Needle exchange and counseling of injecting drug users. May, 1997
• Methadone treatment. September, 1997
• Rehabilitation farm house for men-drug users „Pave the Way to Salvation”. Desember,1998
• HIV prevention in Prison, 2000.a.
• Rehabilitation Day Center for men drug users, 2001
• Day Center for sex-workers, January, 2003
• Case management for drug users, 2007
• HIV prevention among newborns (the treatment of pregnant opiate-dependent women with Buprenorfin), 2008
• Rehabilitation of drug users from Probation System, 2008
• Rehabilitation farm house for women-drug users „Pave the Way to Salvation”. January,2009