Viktor, 44 years old, from Lubny (Poltava region), has a long history of injection drug use. His addiction led him to prison time and time again keeping him trapped in a vicious circle. A glimmer of hope came when during a short spell of freedom he entered the Seven Steps Program implemented by the Poltava Charitable Foundation Svitlo Nadiyi (Light of Hope) under the grant received from the USAID RESPOND Project.
Seven Steps is a psycho-medical intervention model for PWIDs to reduce HIV/hepatitis and STIs risks, promote enrollment in care, drug treatment, and medication assisted therapy (MAT) by teaching them to seek medical attention and social support and maintaining positive behavior change.
In Ukraine PWIDs often encounter barriers when attempting to access health care and social services due to the lack of information, mistrust, stigma, competing basic needs, and fear of disclosure.
The Seven Steps model helps to increase engagement with the healthcare system by motivating them to take action and make changes in their lives. The program is delivered in 7 sessions during a 3 to 6 month period and a combined individualized counseling and comprehensive case management techniques.
In 5 months, Viktor went through all 7 modules of the Seven Steps program and, supported by a psychologist and a social worker, enrolled in the MAT program. He took an HIV test, had a chest X-ray, and consulted with a narcologist and a surgeon.
During the regular sessions with a psychologist Viktor began to give more thought to his life, health, behavior, and relations.
“Now I do not need to spend all my time searching for a drug. It is the first time that I have begun thinking about my health and enjoying life. And I know how to protect myself from AIDS”, Viktor said and added that some of the people who used drugs he knew had entered Seven Steps program as well. “I did not even have to persuade them. They saw how I’d changed and they wanted to have the same change in their lives. I told them that with professional support they’d get over it as I did”, recalled Viktor.
RESPOND Project began implementing Seven Steps psychosocial intervention in August 2014 in four regions of Ukraine, namely in Mykolayiv, Cherkasy, Poltava and Zaporizhzhia. Since then, as of December 31, 2014, as many as 456 PWIDs have been enrolled in the program.