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Tennis Star Anna Kournikova Calls for Action to Protect Health of Russian Youth
Tennis star and PSI (Population Services International) Ambassador Anna Kournikova joined the government of Russia today calling for a coordinated response to the serious health issues facing Russian youth. In a joint press conference in Moscow, Kournikova, government leaders and health experts discussed ongoing health challenges in Russia, where 70% of HIV-positive people are under 30 years of age.
"Too many youth in Russia today fall victim to early drug and alcohol addictions, putting themselves at risk for HIV and other life-threatening illnesses. We can prevent youth from going down this destructive path with a unified response and a coordinated effort to provide young people with timely information, comprehensive support services and healthy lifestyle alternatives," Kournikova said.
The press conference followed four days of travel for Kournikova, in which PSI's affiliate in Russia, the Center for Social Development and Information, led her on a four-city tour of Yekaterinburg, Gatchina, St. Petersburg and Moscow. At each stop, Kournikova met young men and women who are most at-risk of contracting life-threatening diseases like HIV and AIDS, and she saw firsthand the health issues facing her fellow citizens. She also had the opportunity to visit USAID-funded HIV-prevention programs run by PSI and its partners, which help provide support to those vulnerable groups. Particularly striking to Kournikova was PSI's PreventAIDS program in Gatchina, which provides counseling to families with teenagers who are at risk of becoming or who are injecting drug users. In Russia, more than half of all cases of HIV are attributed to intravenous drug use, a habit that usually begins in a person's teenage years.
In Yekaterinburg Kournikova visited a mobile outreach unit, a converted van where injecting drug users go to receive clean needles, condoms and advice on health issues from trained case managers. The following day, in St. Petersburg, Kournikova spent time with several current and former street youth talking about living on the streets of Russia. PSI partner Humanitarian Action supports the young men and women through a program providing medical attention, counseling and encouragement to stay away from drugs and choose healthy behaviors.
During the trip, Kournikova said she'd been inspired to help her peers by raising awareness about the health issues they face. She hopes her return to Russia will help mobilize support among all stakeholders to continue to provide the information, products and services that youth in Russia need to live safe and healthy lives.
PSI is a leading global health organization with programs targeting malaria, child survival, HIV and reproductive health. Working in partnership within the public and private sectors, and harnessing the power of the markets, PSI provides life-saving products, clinical services and behavior change communications that empower the world's most vulnerable populations to lead healthier lives. Learn more at www.psi.org.