The Post-Crescent (Appleton, WI)
Posted on October 10, 2004
By Kara Patterson
APPLETON – Yelena Borovinskikh and other nurses in Appleton’s Russian sister city region of Shchuchye often are met with apathy when they address HIV-positive patients and their families.
“Their relatives don’t think of the problem as a very dangerous problem,” Borovinskikh said Friday through an interpreter.
“They really don’t care,” she added, referring to the families of patients she’s treated in Shchuchye Central District Hospital.
Borovinskikh and seven other Russian professionals leave today after a work week of observing how Fox Cities health care systems, nonprofits and schools educate the public on identifying, treating and preventing the spread of HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that can lead to full-blown AIDS.
The federal Open World Leadership Center program delegates, sponsored jointly by the Fox Cities-Kurgan Sister Cities Program and World Services of La Crosse, identified family involvement as key to early HIV/AIDS education but said cultural taboos make this approach a challenge in Russian homes.
“I think it would be the responsibility of primarily the medical care providers (to educate), but we in turn are to train leaders in schools to address the issue with children and their families in health classes,” said Dr. Galina Zaykova, also an administrator in Shchuchye.
Dr. Montgomery “Monk” Elmer, a ThedaCare physician and Sister Cities president, said the fall of communism in the former Soviet Union loosened restrictions on risky behaviors, something the United States experienced decades ago.
“Russia sees drug abuse as the main problem to be dealt with,” Elmer said. “It’s similar to where we were mentally in the U.S. with saying about homosexuals, ‘They brought (the virus) on themselves, too bad.’”
Because most patients can’t afford a treatment regimen, Elmer said, it’s especially important for the Russian medical community to focus on prevention, including defeating stereotypes and misconceptions about the virus.
Dr. Fedor Nesterov, a gynecologist from Kurgan, said people often hide their HIV-positive status and so become a danger to those around them, including their physicians.
“Drug users still are sharing syringes and needles,” he added. “Our community is not prepared. We need to increase awareness of the problem.”
Borovinskikh said she thinks youth programs promoting healthy lifestyles - like the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley Inc in downtown Appleton ‹ are possible in Russia, given time.
[Reprinted with Permission]