Finding a way out of the darkness
“I have started to think about tomorrow and the future,” says Svajūnas, a drug addict for more than 20 years, receiving help through a project supported by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the NGO programme in Lithuania.
In Lithuania, injected drug users (IDUs) are often stigmatised and funding for fundamental services is limited. To help vulnerable groups, the Lithuanian NGO ‘I can live’ Coalition (Galiu gyventi) provides legal aid and organises campaigns to increase the coverage and improve the quality of health care and social services. The ‘I can live’ Coalition receives funding from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the NGO programme in Lithuania.
Svajūnas receives support from the project. More than 20 years ago, when he was only a teenager, he started using drugs. Svajūnas explains that the distance from an ordinary life, to a life dominated by ‘pain, humiliation and disappointment’ is very short:
“One ‘try’ was enough to turn me from a promising young chemist to a youngster addicted to drugs, cooking and producing drugs for my own use. Every morning began with a single thought; where to get drugs. Drugs possessed me.”
Most of the salary he received from various jobs was spent on drugs. His friends and family were also victims of Svajūnas’ drug abuse:
“It has been a heavy burden for my friends and loved ones. Gradually, over the years, I lost them one by one. True friends were replaced by those with money, so that I could get my dose.”
It was Svajūnas’ wife who convinced him to seek help. She gave him a clear choice:
“She threatened to divorce me if I did not participate in the Methadone Treatment Programme. I had a clear choice: Return to a normal life or continue with the degradation,” he says.
A slow, but steady recovery
The Methadone Treatment Programme helped Svajūnas to settle outstanding legal issues. Through the ‘I can live’ Coalition, he is now involved in educational and advocacy activities. He is hoping that his own experiences can help other drug users in a similarly difficult situation:
“I want to play an active part in the ‘I can live’ Coalition so that I can improve access to treatment and reduce the existing social stigma and discrimination against drug addicts. To be addicted to drugs is a serious disease that requires treatment. No one will question when a person with diabetes injects insulin, but for those taking methadone it is quite different.”
Photo: © Galiu gyventi
Svajūnas’ life is now on the right track. His relationship with his wife and daughter has improved, and he has expanded his circle of friends and acquaintances – many of them are drug addicts undergoing therapy.
“My life slowly started to change after I was enrolled in the Methadone Treatment Programme. I am a much safer and calmer human being. I have to express my gratitude to the ‘I can live’ Coalition and their experts.”
About the project
The project receives €139 635 from the NGO programme in Lithuania. The project started in November 2013 and will end in May 2015.
Ensuring service availability to people affected by HIV (including IDUs) and implementation of their rights
Coalition 'I can live'
Type of Institution:
Other type of NGO
Lithuania has an HIV/AIDS epidemic concentrated in two population groups: Injected drugs users (IDUs) and prisoners. However, this issue is not addressed adequately in Lithuania because services for the most at risk groups are not sufficiently funded by the State. Persons living with HIV/AIDS (incl. IDUs) are stigmatized, their rights are often violated and they possess few tools for defending their rights, while NGOs are yet not treated as equal partners in policy making, service planning and delivery in the field of HIV and drug dependence. The aim of the project is to increase quality and accessibility of basic health care, social and legal services to this vulnerable group. Advocacy campaign for increase in coverage and improvement in quality of health care, social and legal services for people affected with HIV/AIDS shall be organized, primary legal aid services for them provided, and the coalition “I Can Live” working to reduce stigma and discrimination of this group strengthened. Target groups: policy makers, state authorities, law enforcement institutions, NGOs, media. Beneficiaries: HIV/AIDS affected persons (incl. IDUs).