Radio helps tackle Russian HIV epidemic

The country has one of the biggest epidemics in Europe with 940,000 people living with HIV, mainly drug users.

Tearfund is working to stop the spread of HIV and bring spiritual and material transformation by joining forces with local church and Christian partners.

Among them is Radio Teos, which broadcasts weekly across Russia about HIV issues such as prevention and healthcare.

Reaction to them suggests they are highly valued by many listeners.

Evgeniya, 28, divorced her husband because he was diagnosed as living with HIV. Later she began listening to Radio Teos and became more knowledgeable and less afraid of HIV. She contacted her husband and learned he had been infected during a blood transfusion. Eventually they were reunited.

”Because of Radio Teos, I now understand how I can love my husband and support him.”

Valeria, 50, from Moscow, said, "My son Sergey used to be a drug addict living with HIV. After listening to testimonies of people who quit drugs and began their HIV treatment through church-sponsored programmes, he accepted Christ and decided to quit drugs. He entered rehab and is now free from drugs.”

The church in Russia is playing a growing role helping people living with HIV.

Veena O’Sullivan, Tearfund’s HIV Unit Manager, says the local church, particularly the minority Protestant church, is doing inspirational work around HIV in Russia.

“I've recently returned from Russia, where Tearfund started working only in 2004 because of the spiralling infection rates in the country," she said.

“Our partners there are inspirational. I’ve not seen churches run with a vision that fast. I have never seen churches grow so quickly with so many lives transformed.

"At the heart of this is the fact that many churches are made up, started and led by people who have been on the margins of society, ex-drug users, ex-sex workers.

"This is our dream, this is our vision and God is bringing it alive in a country where the Protestant church is facing oppression and where denominational boundaries are well defined.”