"Not one of the organizations promising support has been heard from again, except one...."
Voronin, the clinic’s founder and director, says: "We've started receiving HIV-positive children who have been isolated until they were 1 1/2 or two years old in regional hospitals where the personnel were afraid to approach them," Voronin said. "We noticed that while we could help these children medically, they no longer had any hope of adapting to life because they were so neglected socially. These children resemble each other -- they don't show any emotion, their face is mask-like, they don't smile, they sit in one place."
Voronin is well placed to speak about the prejudice against HIV.
The clinic was created after 270 children were infected with the virus in hospitals in southern Russia, in what remains the country's most shocking HIV scandal.-
THE WAR CRY
14 September 1991 New Zealand
AIDS affected children
The AIDS clinic director, a doctor in his mid 30s, was until recently a devout non-believer. He has told Captain Ljungholm of many ‘western’ organisations who have visited the clinic, and who have assured the clinic of future support. The doctor went on to say that not one of the organisations has been heard from again. He admitted that although he was pleased to have the initial visit of the Army, he never really expected a further contact.
When the Captain returned a few days later, it was a day the director described as his ‘lowest day ever since beginning his work among the children’. As he was thinking he didn’t know where to turn to for help he spied the Army van coming through the gates of the clinic. It was then he ‘felt for the first time there was a God that wanted to help me.
On this occasion Captain Ljungholm brought news of a promised blood centrifuge machine on the way from the USA, a gift from the Captain’s brother, a medical equipment executive. In addition, the Captain said, I was able to hand over the toys and games my wife and I purchased as we emptied the almost bare shelves of one of the few toyshops in Leningrad.
The above information has been received by Capt David Major, Auckland Congress Hall, after speaking to Captain Ljungholm by telephone during a live broadcast (Holiness) meeting on Sunday 25 August. Auckland Congress Hall Corps has made a commitment to contribute $3,200.00 (10% of the budgeted cost to purchase books, a video player, provide for bus transportation, funeral expenses and the return of the children’s remains to their homes. During the week following a substantial parcel of books, toys and other items was packed ready for dispatch.
All the children who attend the clinic are in need of clothing and a diet supplement to their one substantial daily meal. A small Roman Catholic chapel in Gothenburg, Sweden, is to provide the clothing, and the Army will provide the diet supplement.!
Forty toddlers and children ranging from one to seven years of age were hospitalized in Volgograd’s Hospital 7. It has been operating as a research facility specializing in HIV/AIDS treatment since 1991. Perhaps symbolic of the persistent stigma attached to HIV and AIDS in Russia, the clinic’s new orientation drew strong opposition from the local population when it was announced. In fact, the problem of stigma is one of the issues The Salvation Army is seeking to address.
The majority of children born to mothers living with HIV in Russia are essentially orphaned, even if their parents are still alive. Because up to a year and a half is required to diagnose possible HIV infection in a newborn baby, the children of mothers with HIV are not admitted to childcare centres before the end of that period. Most of them live in specialized hospital wards, isolated from the rest of the world. Later on, if HIV is not detected, they are moved to a Children’s home, where they have very dim hopes of future adoption. Those who are found to be HIV-positive remain in the hospital or in an isolated unit at a Children’s Home.
The doctors suggested we meet with the city fathers and the Mayor Yuri Chekhov. We learned that Volgograd was partnered with sister city, Cincinnati, Ohio.
On learning of our visit the Mayor immediately scheduled a TV interview for the same day. We were invited to appear on the local TV midday news. The issue was the past date shelf life of the drug AZT that Wellcome Ltd. somehow had managed to ‘sell’ to the Russian health ministry.
Dr. Voronin flew with my wife and me three weeks later to meet with the parents of children in Hospital Number 7 suffering with AIDS.
Kathie and Sven Ljungholm