Photo Exhibit "The Fire Within"

Moscow - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) will stage a photo exhibit entitled "The Fire Within" at the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center in Moscow starting June 6th, 2001. The exhibit, to be inaugurated by the Prince of Orange of the Netherlands, will feature the photographs of John Ranard. Printed by inkjet on large canvases (1.8 x 2.75 meters), the photos chronicle the evolution of contemporary Russian drug culture revealing the social impact of HIV/ AIDS.

"The Fire Within" exhibit will coincide with the release of a photographic book bearing the same name, which explains the rationale for preventive health programs to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS among young injecting drug users in Russia and Ukraine. About 80% of the 118,000 currently registered HIV-positive cases in Russia (source: Ministry of Health) are young drug users, and a majority contracted the virus by sharing injecting equipment.

From this high-risk group, HIV threatens to spread to the general population by sexual transmission. When John Ranard first photographed Moscow university students "home-cook" and then inject their own chemistry in 1995, there were only about 1,000 registered HIV-positive cases nation-wide. But a rapid upsurge in infection rates the next year alerted MSF to the potential of an epidemic. One of MSF's first responses was to launch a preventive "harm reduction" program in 1996, with the goal of raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and its modes of transmission and of stimulating safer behavior among Moscow's intravenous drug users.

Using MSF-trained peer educators to directly hand out information, the program was one of the first of its kind in Russia. MSF's training programs expanded. As the result of a collaborative effort - the training of 200 health professionals and decision makers by MSF, funding by the Open Society Institute, and implementation by Russian authorities - "harm reduction" prevention programs are now up and running in 36 cities throughout the country.

The exhibit will be on display at the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center until June 30th (address: 57 Zemlyanoi Val, building 6, metro Kurskaya, tel: 923 4420) and posted on the web at Médecins Sans Frontières provides assistance to the victims of natural disasters, armed conflicts, epidemics, and social marginalization in more than 80 countries worldwide. Besides HIV/AIDS prevention programs, in the Russian Federation the organization is currently assisting the homeless in Moscow; displaced persons in republics neighboring Chechnya; the victims of tuberculosis in Kemerovo, Siberia; and the victims of the floods in Lensk, Yakutia.