After leaving home and dropping out of school, 17-year-old Nastya was on a bad path.
For months, she’d been sleeping on Ukraine’s streets or staying with friends. She was frequenting a drug house, never sure what the next day would bring.
And then Nastya’s life became even more complicated: She discovered she was pregnant.
With nowhere else to turn, she found Pact’s Street Smart program, which helps young people whose behavior places them at risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Teens living or spending most of their time on the streets are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and have unsafe sex. According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Health, newly registered HIV cases among people age 14 to 24 increased more than 30 percent in the state of Odessa between 2012 and 2013.
Street Smart provides effective HIV prevention. Its interventions are proven to reduce unprotected sex, the number of sex partners and drug use among high-risk youth.
During a personal counseling session, Nastya revealed that she had yet to see a doctor about her pregnancy because she feared the responsibility of having a child and the possibility that she might be infected with HIV.
The next day, Nastya had a medical checkup and tested negative for the virus.
With Pact’s support, Nastya obtained affordable housing through a local church and was counseled to overcome many of her fears before giving birth to a healthy boy, Artyomka.
“I will always remember the Street Smart sessions because I’ve learned so many new and useful things for myself,” Nastya says. “I gained confidence, learned to value my own life and the life of my baby, and I learned to say no when necessary.”
Says Oksana Pchelnikova, director of the Street Smart program: “Today when we visit Nastya, Artyomka is smiling in response to our greetings and so is Nastya.”
Since July 2013, more than 600 boys and girls in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk, Lviv, Mykolayiv and Odessa states have benefited from the Street Smart program through sub-grants to seven local organizations.