Narva apocalypse

  • 2000-10-26
  • Sergei Stepanov
Every week since September about 20 young people in Narva have been told they are HIV-positive. The total number has reached 180. Sergei Stepanov reports.

Thursday morning. Five young people were standing in the narrow corridor of a Narva drug rehabilitation center waiting for results of their blood tests.

The door into a nurse's room opens and a slightly muffled female voice can be heard: "You have to understand this is not a death sentence. You have a chance to survive, to get treatment. But you must give up drugs." Her speech was interrupted by a young man's scream. An 18-year-old was told he is HIV-positive.

A girl, only seventeen, was the next to hear that her blood tested positive. In one hour there were six of them. All went out with gray, tear-stained faces. Some moved away from the center like shadows, sobbing, some leaned against a tree and beat it as if it was responsible for their tragedy.

All of them are drug users, and all knew this could happen.

Yuri and Anna

When he was 10, he played soccer for Baltika FC and dreamed of becoming a well-paid player for a prestigious European club. He neither smoked nor drank until his first year at vocational technical school. Today he is 23 and has six years of drug experience. He is also HIV-positive.

He met Anna three years ago; their son is now six months old. Twenty year old Anna has been taking heroin for a year and a half. This couple is the first to have the courage to reveal that they are HIV-positive.

They were not frightened when they found out they were HIV-positive. No thoughts of suicide. People live with the virus. "I was ready to know it. We are to blame for this," Yuri said.

As often happens, Yuri's drug experience started with marijuana. Amphetamine, papaverum and heroin came a bit later.

Anna just wanted to try, although her boyfriend was against it. He even gave up drugs for some time, but then returned to the old habit.

Neither Anna nor Yuri work. Even if Anna would find a job in her specialty - she is a seamstress - wage delays are too long to help the young family. The child is living with its grandparents.

Yuri used to work in a baker's shop. Several years ago he lost the job. When he recently tried to get a new one, the employer fired him after the very first day. Yuri thinks somebody told the employer he was a drug addict.

Now Yuri and Anna are sure they will not find any jobs just because they have got the HIV virus. Some of Yuri's friends are afraid of shaking his hand. Yuri declined to answer where he gets money for drugs, but stressed that he does not steal.

The most important thing for Yuri and Anna is that their son is healthy. Yuri hopes the boy will not repeat his father's mistake. "If I stay alive, I will do anything to keep him away from drugs. I want to make my son's life better than mine was," he said.

A phenomenon of the new culture?

The state is tolerant to drug dealers: a Gypsy woman recently arrested for dealing drugs was released on 30,000 kroons ($1,670) bail. Her clients said she returned to dealing the next day.

Instead of punishing drug dealers, the police focus on drug users, who are sick people. Narva City Court appoints fines and ten-day arrests almost every day.

Estonian psychiatrist Anti Liiv, MP, recently told Eesti Paevaleht daily that the state should not spend money on treating drug users. He considers drug addiction a phenomenon of the new, unknown culture of the information society. He said many people are dying of cancer and nobody dramatizes that.

Such MPs have in all likelihood not seen the problem from within. It is probably time to dramatize. Now.