Film: Russian documentary #NonExistentWeExist on Russian activism and HIV (Director: Igor Kouzmenko, Ukraine, 51:44 min., 2019)
Taking into consideration the repressive government, Russian harm reduction organizations and organizations offering legal aid are working on putting an end to HIV in one of the rare countries in the world where the number of new infections is increasing.
The documentary titled #NonExistentWeExist, portrays services working with, and often consisting of drug users who offer sexual services, are HIV positive or are queer or transgender. People who dare to share their experiences are targeted by state politics through policies such as, for instance, prohibiting substitution therapies, registers of people who use drugs and are HIV positive and laws against “gay propaganda”.
#NonExistentWeExist, as the title suggests, simultaneously calls to pessimism and optimism. The police is indifferent towards the harassment and abuse suffered by sex workers, while drug users are forced to face antagonistic drug dealers on every corner. Prevention campaigns posters relay activists’ messages for putting an end to the HIV era, however, proven methods on reducing the risk of HIV transmission, as well as sterile needles and care for HIV positive people, such as antiretroviral therapy, remain inaccessible in the country. The film, coproduced by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, also offers an illustration of how people, despite the direct effects of the state “narcopolitics”, find ways to continue and care for each other. The film ends with a quotation capturing the tension experienced by Russian harm reduction workers: “Do your duty and what will be, will be” (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRIPIrrS- Fw&feature=emb_title).
Our Recommendation Subtitle: Book: Dopeworld. Adventures in Drug Lands by Niko Vorobyov, Hodder & Stoughton, 2019)
Niko Vorobyov is a former drug dealer who took an interest in the history of legal and illegal drugs after serving a prison sentence. Selling ecstasy in London, crack in Los Angeles, LSD in Tokyo, smoking heroin in Sofia, cooking cocaine in Medellin, opium in Tehran. After this experience, Niko believes all drugs should be legalized. In fact, countries where drugs such as heroin and cocaine are decriminalized tend to have lower crime rates and drug abuse. Niko reveals something most people with black and brown skin throughout the world already know – anti-drugs laws tend to be racially motivated. The book is funny and informative in every aspect. Interestingly, in the 1920, alcohol was illegal, with heroin and opium, however, being legal.