Since 1987 I have been working at the Central Prison of Tallinn as an inspector, where I quickly realized what prisons are all about and the seriousness and complexity of the problems faced by both inmates and prison staff.
Communicable diseases are an important issue for everyone concerned, and consequently our work at Convictus Estonia is very demanding and challenging. Our organization primarily helps HIV-positive inmates and also those affected by tuberculosis.
This is done in a multitude of ways and we often have to cope with very sad but, nevertheless, not hopeless situations. Often our clients are not only affected by HIV and tuberculosis but have to lead their lives under extremely difficult circumstances. They are frequently unemployed, homeless, addicted to drugs and have little education or training, so they find it difficult to imagine a future for themselves. We work to help these people in the following ways:
- psychosocial help for HIV-infected drug addicts in Tallinn
- psychosocial work and counselling for HIV-infected people in Estonian prisons
- a stationery and mobile needle exchange and counselling centre for drug users
- lectures given by ex-drug users to schoolchildren and youth.
Group discussions and individual counselling have been employed as teaching tools in the programme. The programme covers, for instance, the effects of drug abuse and the transmission of HIV and other infections. Condoms are distributed to prisoners, and leaflets distributed after the training sessions include information on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, sexually transmissible infections, syringe cleaning, vein care and tattooing.We plan to continue to commit ourselves to the fight against communicable diseases through our actions, which also aim to tackle the related but conflicting issue of stigmatization and discrimination. We shall never forget that our contributions and investments are for the people and their lives, and that each and every one who engages in our fight can help make a difference.