Nadezhda Kozachenko, head of the Credo public association, on palliative care, harm reduction for HIV-infected and drug addicts, and how an organization can make a name for itself
Our organization, the Credo Public Association, was established in January 1999. It came into being because of an urgent need. How exactly did this happen? At that time I was in charge of the Department of Immunology and Allergology at the Medical Academy of the Karaganda Regional Center for the Prevention and Control of AIDS. Back then it was our doctors who examined HIV-infected convicts assembled from all over Kazakhstan for placement in two colonies.
It was a difficult time. There was practically no medicine to treat HIV-positive prisoners, who, in addition, had multiple concurrent inflammatory diseases. It was then that doctors of the AIDS center and the department’s staff came up with the idea of creating a non-governmental organization that could search for funds to treat inflammatory diseases. The Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan was one of the first to support us. The Requisite Credo At first we engaged in research work, which led to candidate dissertations being defended and patents being awarded. Later, we came to understand the necessity of preventing HIV and drug addiction. Our largest project came to be the Harm Reduction program, during which we organized needle-exchange points—two stationary and one mobile. This benefited not only society, but us as well. It helped us to learn the basics of medical and social support, and outreach work, and to educate numerous professional social workers, build relationships with law enforcement agencies, and understand the needs of families, both socially disadvantaged and low-income. And obviously, it helped us to engage in outreach and awareness-raising efforts with the public, medical workers, and law-enforcement officials.
Thanks to the Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan we have made a name for ourselves as an organization. We have a well-known organization with a completely honest approach to the projects we implement! The work experience gained in cooperation with the Foundation has made it possible for our organization to work successfully for 21 years.
What are we doing today? At the present time, under the aegis of the Kazakhstani Union of People Living with HIV (which falls under the Association of Legal Entities), quite a number of new organizations have begun to help people in Kazakhstan deal with the challenges of living with HIV. These organizations are quite ambitious, but not always professional, and since we work mainly on projects funded through state contracts for social services, such a variety of organizations and areas of work has led to difficulties. I am referring to the notorious dumping issue, which led to the emergence of “uneven financing” (when vital projects are supported, but for nowhere near the whole year), and many other aspects of the Credo association’s work. But here the experience we gained while working with the Foundation (including the ability to complete applications and work with government agencies) has helped us in such situations.
It is a shame that in recent years in Kazakhstan I have not seen any similar much-needed projects in our area. Nonetheless, I know for sure that the Foundation continues to change our reality every day, thanks to the democratic values its team believes in, and the benevolence and clarity of its work. It was the Foundation that first identified the absence of palliative care in Kazakhstan and initiated several research, informational and educational projects. Additionally, a working group was created, a standard for the provision of palliative care in the republic was developed and proposed, suggestions for developing health-care programs were made, and the first mobile brigades began to work. As a result, the Kazakhstan Association for Palliative Care was established.