HIV/STI PREVENTION & HEALTH PROMOTION AMONG STREET CHILDREN IN KYIV

Country: Ukraine || Duration: January 2008 – September 2011 || Donors: AIDS Fonds (Netherlands), Danish AIDS Fondet (Denmark); Johnson&Johnson || Budget:

Ukraine was the first European country to reach a 1% adult HIV prevalence rate and is recognised as the hardest hit country in the region. As of 1 March 2009, 129 094 individuals were registered as living with HIV in Ukraine, with some estimates suggesting that as many as 440 000 Ukrainians have already been infected. While much attention has been given to preventing new infections among the adult population, street (or homeless) children represent a growing concern in the Ukrainian context.

While accurate data is largely missing on Ukraine’s population of street children, a joint study carried out by AFEW and UNICEF/Ukraine in Kyiv and Odessa in 2006 found that 20–69% of those tested were HIV positive, largely as a result of unsafe injecting drug use and/or unprotected sexual contact. Recognising the need for action among this ‘missing face’ of the epidemic, AFEW initiated activities to specifically address the needs of Ukraine’s children and adolescents living on the streets via its project HIV/STI Prevention & Health Promotion among Street Children in Kyiv, Ukraine.

This project was aimed at decreasing risk-related behaviours which can lead to HIV and/or sexually transmitted infections among street children in Kyiv by promoting healthier lifestyles and improving their access to medical and psycho-social services.

Thus far, activities have largely focused on the establishment of a drop-in centre for street children in Kyiv located on the premises of the Municipal Centre for Psycho-Social Services, a division of the Kyiv City Social Services Centre for Families, Children and Youth. The drop-in centre opened its doors in February 2009 and offers services to young people who work and/or live on the streets of Kyiv. These services include:

  • Psychological support and counselling;
  • Assistance in getting their documents or finding missing parents and/or relatives through referrals to various agencies;
  • Accessing healthcare providers and/or drug treatment specialists; and
  • Educational and/or recreational programmes for young people (including computer training, and basic reading/writing coursework).
  • The drop-in centre also includes a mobile outreach team that works at street level to reach and attract additional children to access services from the drop-in centre who may otherwise remain hidden.

An additional component of this project and one designed to sustain the long-term development of activities for street children includes AFEW’s provisions of capacity building training seminars for social workers and other service providers to assist street children in Kyiv. This will ensure that governmental and non-governmental agencies are able to meet the health and psycho-social needs of young people by providing non-discriminatory support and high-quality services.

AFEW provides training seminars for specialists such as social workers, consultants and psychologists on topics including the prevention of HIV, counselling techniques and practical skills, as well as working with street children.

In addition, 8 specialists also participated in a study tour to Odessa and visited ‘The Way Home’ local drop-in centre for street children in 2008. Then, in May 2010, the project manager Anastasia Shebardina led a team of psychologists, medical professionals, project coordinators and the Deputy Director of Kyiv Social Services on a study trip to St. Petersburg. The object of their 3-day visit was to learn more about new methods of working with street children and children from crisis families that are being piloted there. They observed the work of rehabilitation programmes for troubled teenagers, governmental and non-governmental services for children and shared experiences with local social workers, educators, psychologists, medical staff, rehabilitation specialists, drug treatment specialists and lawyers.

Other activities have included an art competition and master-classes for street children in December 2009 which led to a public exhibition, as well as special day-trips and art classes for children to mark Children’s Day (2nd June). Journalists are invited to all such public activities to help highlight the plight of street children to the general public and decision-makers.

RESULTS IN 2009-2010

  • 500 children accessed services through the drop-in centre from February 2009 to March 2010. Altogether, the centre had 271 children fully registered and profiled by the end of the year;
  • 4 516 individual services were provided, including training, psychological counselling, informational counselling and provision of basic necessities such as meals, food, clothes, etc;
  • 144 medical staff, social workers, outreach workers and psychologists from governmental and nongovernmental organisations were trained in HIV prevention and care for street children;
  • 3 000 info-cards were distributed to children and 300 adverts for the centre were displayed on public transport.

Under AFEW’s project, the Kyiv Drop-in Centre for Street Children has funding guaranteed up to the end of 2010. In 2010, it was planned that the local authorities would partially fund the centre with the long-term prospect of full funding provision.

In order to ensure that the approaches used at the centre and lessons learned are embedded in the city’s medical and social services, AFEW is stepping up its training of professionals across the city’s frontline services.

In addition, AFEW is producing a manual on the specific approaches used in working with this group, a range of leaflets for children and short animated films with prevention messages.