Armenia: sex-health clinic opens in local market district

The area has a high transient population with truckers and immigrant workers. By providing free anonymous care and information, the project hopes to stem the development of HIV AIDS and other sexual transmitted diseases in the country.
Armenia - On 22 July 2002, with the mayor of Bagratashen and the minister of health for the province of Tavush attending, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened its new out-patient health centre. The small clinic offers clients advice on contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/Aids as well as free examinations and on-site treatment for less serious symptoms. "The project aims to inform locals about modern means of contraception and to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV", explained Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, MSF Head of Mission in Armenia. "We also offer patients access to tests, accompanied by explanatory discussions. MSF thus hopes to prevent the kind of rapid rise in the number of Aids sufferers that has been seen in Russia and the Ukraine." Bagratashen is a small town in North Armenia, located on the border with Georgia and is filled with usual active life found in a of market area. Countless trucks carrying goods pass through daily and many Armenian immigrant workers travel through the town on their way to Russia, where they try to find work. However, once they have left the country in search of work, many never return. In the area surrounding Bagratashen, many women have been abandoned by their husbands, leaving them and their children alone. The women's options for feeding their families are very limited. Old and young alike work on the market carrying loads, and some women take on this physically demanding task. But the few dram, the Armenian currency, they earn is scarcely enough to get by. Many women see no other option but to work as prostitutes. MSF identified Bagratashen as a social crisis point in an area with poor medical provision. The results of a study led to the new project being launched. The newly opened health centre while near the market is concealed by the walls and trees of the small municipal park. This is intended primarily to enable the prostitutes and their passing clientele to access the centre anonymously. In addition, MSF's team of outreach workers also establishes direct contact by going to the market or arranging house visits. Clients from the other side of the border are also welcome in the clinic, as conditions in the larger Georgian part of the market are scarcely better. "Everyone who would like to visit our clinic is free to do so, whatever their nationality. Treatment is anonymous and free of charge for everyone." Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer concluded. From the first day, many people from the market have taken up the offer and have made their way to the small clinic in the municipal park.