A Drug-Free Life: how Methadone Changed the Life of a Former Drug User from Tajikistan

Author: Nargis Khamrabaeva, Tajikistan

Methadone substitution therapy for drug dependent people has been used for many years, but so far there are both supporters and opponents of this method. 40-year-old Karim from Tajikistan shared how he personally benefited from the substitution therapy.

Heroin for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Karim started taking drugs when he was 20. At first, it was hashish and weed smoking with friends from time to time. He was 34 when one of his friends handed him a stronger cigarette with hashish and heroin mix.

“I thought, well, it is okay, in this life you have to try everything. A couple of days later I started feeling not very well. It seemed like flu, and back then I did not know that those were the withdrawal symptoms,” Karim is saying.

Karim did not manage to cope with the terrible feeling that people who use drugs get when the whole body aches and pains, there are chills, nausea and weakness. He had to buy a dose, then another one. As a result, he became seriously hooked on heroin. Heroin was for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Karim’s was thinking only about how to get another dose.

At times he would listen to his mother and wife and go to the narcology clinic to get treatment but without any success. He went to work far away, to Russia. Karim did not manage to make money but got addicted to drugs even more. Moving to another place did not help either. The wife left with the children on the condition that she would return when her husband coped with the addiction. Nevertheless, even this did not motivate Karim to knock the habit.

“Of course, I wanted to kick the drug addiction, because I realized that if the situation continued, I would lose my family. But quitting heroin is not easy, you need to harness all your willpower to do it, and not give up. I did not want to suffer. I would last a day or two, and everything began anew,” Karim says.

AFEW helped with methadone

In 2015, Karim heard that AFEW-Tajikistan helps drug users to cope with this craving with methadone substitution therapy. At first, Karim did not believe that something else could help but decided to use this opportunity.

“I went to the organization, received a referral to treatment and started taking strictly defined doses of methadone under the supervision of a doctor. By the way, I did not receive it in the form of injections but got it as a syrup instead. Over the period of three years, the dose of methadone was gradually reduced. Methadone helps to get off the needle and not spread HIV and hepatitis via a common syringe,” he says.

According to Karim, he no longer experiences withdrawal symptoms and hopes that the complete denial of drugs is around the corner.

“Now I am leading a normal life, my wife and four children are back with me,” Karim is saying.

Mikhail Golichenko: “HIV Epidemic in Russia is an Epidemic of Powerlessness”

Mikhail Golichenko is a lawyer and Senior Policy Analyst at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Author: Anastasia Petrova, Russia

We discussed the human rights issues in the context of HIV in Russia with Mikhail Golichenko. Mikhail Golichenko is a lawyer and Senior Policy Analyst at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network — organization, which has a special consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Previously, Mikhail was a Legal Officer with the UNODC Country Office in Moscow. His work is focused on the promotion of human rights and addressing legal barriers to accessing health rights and effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs for prisoners and people who inject drugs. He holds a Candidate of Sciences degree (PhD equivalent) in Law.

– The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day was marked recently. What is this day about for you?

– It is a good occasion to reflect on the victims of HIV and at the same time think about our role in making sure that people who died of this disease did not die in vain.

In Tolyatti, in 2012, if I am not mistaken, on this day people traditionally went to a park, they handed out condoms, HIV awareness-raising materials, lit candles. It was all happening near the monument to the glorious heroes of the Great Patriotic War. Tolyatti is a small city and there are not many locations to hold public campaigns. It happened that during the campaign the bowl with condoms was put near the eternal fire and this fact was misinterpreted by mass media. As a result, the campaign organizers were fined for holding a mass event in close vicinity to the monument to the Great Patriotic War heroes. That is a local law in Tolyatti.

It shows that we are on different sides of the processes: the society is aware of the problem and the state doing nothing to start considering this problem from the right perspective.

Could you please tell us about the human rights situation in Russia and its implications for the HIV epidemic?

The key factor in the development of HIV epidemic in Russia is human rights violations, which make certain populations more vulnerable to HIV. People who use drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender persons and migrants do not have access to adequate prevention, care and support for HIV and other socially significant diseases.

Rights are the social clothes of a modern person. They are represented by the laws imposing obligations on the state. The set of human rights keeps people warm and protects them from any aggressive impacts of the social environment. Some populations, such as people who use drugs, had part of their clothes removed. So, in fact, these people have to stay naked when it is minus forty degrees Celsius outside. Of course, they get sick. We should not cherish any illusions: even if we have sterile needles and syringes on every street corner tomorrow, it will surely improve the situation, but not much. We will still have repressions, persecution of people who use drugs, which prevent people from seeking health services.

There is a similar situation with sex workers. They know that they should use condoms. However, they know that if they get beaten up by a client who insists on having sex without a condom, nobody will protect them. Police will, first of all, blame the sex worker for being involved in sex work. Sometimes it is easier not to use condoms hoping not to get infected than being beaten up knowing that it makes no sense to seek protection in the police.

As for MSM, it is the same. Now the website PARNI-PLUS, which published information on HIV prevention among men who have sex with men, has been closed. There are almost no similar sources of information in Russia. Where will people who live with their sexual identities take this information? Their vulnerability and stigma will grow. There is a direct linkage. HIV epidemic in Russia is an epidemic of powerlessness.

– Could you tell about your speech in the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? After it, a recommendation was made to revise the approach to the drug policy in Russia…

– There have already been many such recommendations. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, then the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Women’s Rights, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, now there will be the Committee Against Torture. The committees realize that the drug policy in Russia is one of the drivers of systematic violations and issue those recommendations.

In my opinion, the main recommendation was given in October 2017, when the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommended Russia to decriminalize drug possession with no intent to distribute. The same goes for scaling up harm reduction services, legalizing substitution treatment, distributing truthful information on drugs, preventing overdoses, implementing substitution treatment for pregnant women, stopping tortures of drug users in police, in particular discontinuing the practice of using withdrawal syndrome to get evidence from detainees. Russia does not really follow all those recommendations, but the constant pressure will gradually give its results.

Our main tool is the attempt to involve government authorities in a dialogue so that people feel a certain need to introduce some changes. There is a set of clear recommendations, which are to be followed. It will certainly work. Where human rights are violated, there is no sustainability, there is a space for internal conflict, and there is no development.

What measures, in your opinion, does Russia need to take to stop the HIV epidemic?

We just need to remember that we are people. No laws are needed. There is a Constitution and it is enough. Safe coexistence is a value without which we cannot live. It is possible only with love, mutual understanding and help.

Call for Applications for EECA Networking Zone during AIDS 2018

Eastern European and Central Asian (EECA) communities will have their own Networking Zone in the Global Village during the 22nd International AIDS Conference AIDS 2018. Now it is time to fill in the Networking Zone with interesting events.

The organizing group, which included representatives of all key networks in the region, have worked out the key objectives for EECA Communities campaign, common for all communities in the region and on which all our efforts, events and actions will be aimed at during AIDS2018.

The objectives are:

  1. To demonstrate to the world the impact of repressive, discriminatory legislation and practices of their application, as well as stigma against key populations and people living with HIV (PLWH) in EECA on the effectiveness of the response to HIV/AIDS epidemic and people’s lives and to strive to create an enabling legal environment in EECA region.
  2. To show the consequences of excluding communities from planning, implementation, and evaluation of HIV/AIDS programs to effectively respond to the epidemic and to achieve commitments on the involvement of key populations and PLWH in decision-making processes.
  3. To demonstrate the negative consequences of reducing international support and unwillingness of EECA countries governments to switch to national funding, and to seek global assistance in mobilizing resources to stabilize HIV/AIDS epidemic in EECA.

The days of the EECA Networking Zone functioning in the Global Village are spread according to the objectives topics. Each day will include time slots for video projection/art/performance, meetings with decision-makers and joint actions in the framework of EECA Communities campaign.

Please send your applications for the events to natalia@harmreductioneurasia.org and daria_alexeeva@AFEW.nl, considering the below-mentioned criteria before June 5.

Selection criteria for the events and presentations to be included into the program of the EECA Networking Zone:

  1. Relevance to one of the campaign objectives/topics: the role of the communities in decision making, sustainable financing, and legal barriers.
  2. Wide coverage of the key populations (targeting more than one key population).
  3. The format should be suitable and should enhance the conditions and area of the networking zone 60m2 (examples are: discussion, briefing, action, performance etc.) and surrounding environment (Global Village).
  4. The duration between 45 and 90 minutes.
  5. The applicant shall be able to ensure participation of all announced speakers and will promote its event to attract the audience.
  6. The applicant shall be able to ensure the necessary equipment (if it lacks in the Networking Zone) – to bring it, install it and dismantle after the session/event.
  7. Joint submissions from several organizations are welcome.

The final decision on inclusion of submitted ideas into the EECA Networking Zone program will be based on the criteria mentioned above, and also on following the logic of the relevance to adjacent events and sessions.

The AFEW Culture Initiative Presents EECA Food and Art Night in Amsterdam

The first edition of PLOV ARTxFOODxCINEMA is coming to Amsterdam on 29 of May. Culinary experiences and cinematographic impressions of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia will come together during the event organised by the AFEW Culture Initiative in collaboration with the partners IDFA and Studio/K.

During the event, visitors will taste food from Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA): traditional Russian okroshka beetroot and kefir soup and traditional Asian plov (pilaf) dish. After dinner the documentary “Debut” by Anastasiya Miroshnichenko (Belarus, 2017) will be shown. The movie is about women who are detained in a Belarus prison for first-time offenders.

“The PLOV evenings are great for those interested in a new cultural food experience, who would like to learn more about Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and public health issues of the region through the eyes of the artists,” says AFEW International Project Officer Judith Kreukels.

During the whole duration of the PLOV ARTxFOODxCINEMA event, there will be the possibility to see the artworks of artists-in-residence who come from the EECA region and stay in Amsterdam now.

Tickets to the event cost €20,00 for dinner and documentary, €15,00 for dinner only, and €9,50 for documentary only. Tickets to PLOV ARTxFOODxCINEMA can be reserved Studio /K by the telephone number 020 692 0422. Tickets can be purchased at the Studio /K on the evening itself.

TIME

16:00 — 22:00 – Open atelier and ongoing artistic showcase.
18:00 — 20:00 – Two-course dinner.
20:00 — 21:30 – Documentary screening, followed by Q&A.

ART 

Four visual artists-in-residence will showcase their ongoing artistic projects:
— Hanna Zubkova (Minsk/Paris)
— Hassan Kurbanbaev (Tashkent)
— Ilya Fedotov-Fedorov (Moscow)
— Lado Darakhvelidze (Kutaisi/Arnhem)

FOOD 

Two courses menu:
— Okroshka beetroot and kefir soup.
— Plov (pilaf) dish.
There is an option of a vegetarian menu.

PROJECT BACKGROUND

The AFEW Culture Initiative was established in 2017 as a cultural and artistic ramification of AFEW International. The AFEW Culture Initiative offers an innovative alternative to intertwine the worlds of public health, culture and visual arts as a means to stimulate a much-needed dialogue on challenges such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or viral hepatitis, as well as their impact on the lives of sex workers, substance users, imprisoned persons or LGBQTI, among others.

Martine de Schutter Scholarship Fund Launched

AFEW International sets up Martine de Schutter Scholarship Fund that allows participants from Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) to attend the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018). Martine’s commitment to the international fight against AIDS and her unwavering support to the Eastern European region has set an example for us to follow. That is why AFEW International established the Scholarship Fund named after Martine de Schutter – our friend and fellow activist.

As of today, Martine de Schutter Fund raised 103.000 EUR to cover the additional scholarships of the EECA applicants to come to Amsterdam for AIDS 2018. A part of the Martine de Schutter Fund has been distributed to the applicants from EECA through the established Scholarship Committee of the International AIDS Society (IAS) of which 45 are regular scholarships and 20 – for speakers who will be invited from the EECA region. AFEW thanks Gilead, Janssen Cilag, Deutsche AIDS-Stiftung and Aidsfonds for their contribution to this Fund.

Martine de Schutter was a strong advocate for human rights. For about 10 years she managed the European network AIDS Action Europe, which connects more than 400 AIDS organizations throughout Europe and Central Asia. Martine worked with dedication and passion to keep the AIDS problem on the agenda at the European Union and to connect all organisations working on the same issues in Eastern Europe. In 2014, Martine became the Program Leader for Bridging the Gaps: Health and Rights for Key Populations program. She travelled a lot and her last trip was to AIDS 2014 Conference in Melbourne on the MH17 plane that was shot down and crashed.

 

EECA Success on the Road to AIDS 2018

Author: Olesya Kravchuk, AFEW International

The total of 603 abstracts from Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) were submitted to 22nd International AIDS Conference AIDS 2018 to be held in July in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 182 abstracts out of them were selected for the abstract book, posters and oral presentations.

These results were achieved with the support of AFEW International, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in partnership with EECA regional networks EHRA, ECOM, ECUO and GNP+.

“It is a great success, and we can see that especially by comparing it with the previous AIDS conferences. In comparison to the AIDS 2016 Conference that took place in Durban, South Africa, the amount of submitted abstract has more than tripled, and the number of accepted abstracts has increased by almost six times,” says AFEW International Project Manager of AIDS 2018 EECA Daria Alexeeva. “124 abstracts were submitted to AIDS 2016, and 31 were accepted. The acceptance rate has increased this year as well – 31% against 25%.”

The special group of 25 EECA organizations whom AFEW International supported with on- and offline training program on community-based participatory research and funded their local community-based researches, has shown even greater results. Eight of the abstracts that were developed based on their researches were accepted. 13 scholarships were awarded.

Besides, a special EECA communities networking zone was secured at the Global Village of the Conference. Challenges and successes of the region will be featured there. EECA regional networks and community organisations will use the zone to jointly advocate for financial sustainability for the AIDS response in the EECA region, vanishing legal barriers for effective prevention programs and increasing meaningful participation of the communities in decision and policy making.

An Award after HIV and Prison

Author: Irma Kahurashvili, Georgia

Tamar owns a small house in Tbilisi. We are sitting in a tiny room of this house, decorated with colourful balloons from a children’s celebration. All the doors are wide open and the scent of lilacs reaches us from the green courtyard. Tamo talks about her troubled life – three children and imprisonment, work and HIV that she has been living with for several years.

Tamar Gakhokidze is a social worker in NGO Gepa Plus. She helps HIV-positive people and people with drug dependency. Last year, she received the Frida and Edita Sisters Award (which honours those who work within communities at the national and international levels in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine – author’s remark) for leadership in social activism that improves the quality of life of key population groups and inspires other people to be socially active.

Outside the ARV Medications Access Zone

In 2004, Tamo was imprisoned in a female prison colony after she had a fight with her tipsy husband and inadvertently deprived him of life. This tragedy has changed her whole life. After four years in prison, she learned that she was HIV-positive. An employee of Tanadgoma Center for Information and Counseling on Reproductive Health brought the result of the HIV test to the colony. Tamo first thought it was a prank. She simply could not believe it, and when asked once again if she understood what her diagnosis was, she answered clearly: “No!” The doctor told Tamo that she could keep her health condition secret, but she decided not to hide it.

What exactly happened, how and where she contracted the disease – these thoughts were constantly in her head. In the female prison colony, there were two instances when Tamo had the risk of being infected: when either her appendicitis or tooth was removed in the prison hospital. Tamo believes that the infection was caused by the negligence of a doctor who used non-sterile medical instruments.

Sometime later, Tamo asked the prison dentist to give her a separate box, where her personal medical instruments would be stored.

“In this way, I was protected from the other women. I was calmer that way because I knew for sure that others could be in my place. I would not leave the doctor’s office until he sterilized my tools,” the woman says.

Back then, there were more than 1,500 women in the colony. After Tamo had announced that she was HIV-positive, women started avoiding her. Doctors were also afraid: the dentist refused to provide her with treatment, and another doctor whom she asked for vitamins, replied that she was not supposed to approach him. Discrimination continued outside the prison when Tamo gave birth to her child. She was also not very lucky with employers since everyone knew that Tamar was a former prisoner and that she had health issues.

Despite the obstacles, Tamo became one of the first women in Georgia who openly informed everyone that she was living with HIV. She urged HIV-positive women not to be afraid to give birth, talked about the fact that these women could still have healthy children, and she was an example herself thereof. Tamar gave birth to two healthy children already being HIV-positive.

Solving the problems means speaking up about them

Having spent eight years in prison, Tamo wants to figure out what actually happened to her.

“I have collected all the necessary documents, and I want to go to court and find out the truth about why I was deliberately deprived of medical help, even though I got infected in prison without any fault of my own? I remember after I had broken my leg, a telephoned message and commission took place, and even the investigators arrived immediately due to this simple reason. Then why no one paid attention to me when there was a real threat to my life?” the woman asks.

According to Tamo, at that time everyone who had a CD4 level below 350 cells had to receive treatment. She never did. The woman shows her medical form, where it is indicated that she had both a crisis and low CD4 indicators – 51, 90, 106, 136 …

Now Tamo is confident that the HIV-positive community will be able to solve any problems if they openly speak about them.

“I have zero viral load. I live my life just like everyone else does, and I want to live on further,” she says.

Tamar recalls that she did not give up even when she was afraid of her status.

“I cried every day and it seemed to me that maybe those were the last hours of my life. There was no one by my side who could just talk and comfort me, but I overcame everything. I dreamed to see the lilacs in my courtyard, and now not only I do see them, but I also smell their aroma. Also, my beloved children, parents and friends are with me!” says Tamo.

AIDS 2018: Call for Journalists

The International AIDS Conference is the largest conference on any global health issue in the world. First convened during the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1985, it continues to provide a unique forum for the intersection of science, advocacy, and human rights. Each conference is an opportunity to strengthen policies and programmes that ensure an evidence-based response to the epidemic. The 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) will be hosted in Amsterdam, Netherlands 23-27 July 2018.

The theme of AIDS 2018 is “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges”, drawing attention to the need of rights-based approaches to more effectively reach key populations, including in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and the North-African/Middle Eastern regions where epidemics are growing. AIDS 2018 aims to promote human rights-based and evidence-informed HIV responses that are tailored to the needs of particularly vulnerable communities – including people living with HIV, displaced populations, men who have sex with men, people in closed settings, people who use drugs, sex workers, transgender people, women and girls and young people–and collaborate in fighting the disease beyond country borders.

If you are a journalist and interested to learn more, please register at http://www.aids2018.org/Media-Centre. There are still opportunities for scholarships. You can also subscribe to newsletters to support your work in-country. For further questions, please contact media@aids2018.org

EECAAC 2018: Treatment or Epidemic

The problems of EECA were discussed at the VI Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference in Moscow on 8 – 20 April 2018

Author: Anastasia Petrova

Russia accounts for two-thirds of the new HIV cases in Europe and Central Asia. This is what the UNAIDS data show. One of the key factors contributing to the further spread of the epidemic is low treatment coverage: only one-third of people who need treatment get it. This fact, as well as other problems of the region, were discussed at the VI Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference (EECAAC 2018) held in Moscow on 8 – 20 April 2018.

“What should be done to make sure that every HIV positive person has access to high-quality modern treatment from the day he is diagnosed with HIV in any place of our huge country? Maybe we should all – activists, business, government – honestly recognize that the AIDS war is lost, should join our efforts and reconsider where we are and where we go,” said Aleksandr Chebin, the activist of the Patient Control Movement, Yekaterinburg.

Patients demand treatment

“A special program was adopted in Russia to prevent the spread of the virus in the country, which allowed significantly increasing HIV/AIDS patients’ coverage with treatment services,” told Olga Golodets, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation at the EECAAC 2018 opening ceremony. However, experts say that the measures taken are not enough.

According to Vadim Pokrovskiy, Head of the Russian Federal AIDS Centre, only 35.5% of people living with HIV in Russia receive treatment. Even those who are registered in HIV care are not guaranteed treatment. In early 2018, fifteen regions of the country have reported stock-outs of antiretrovirals (ARVs).

On activists’ of the Patient Control Movement made attempts to voice this message at the opening ceremony T-shirts there was a message STOP, STOCK-OUTS!

Activists of the Patient Control Movement made attempts to voice this message at the opening ceremony. During the speech of Olga Golodets, people present at the ceremony stood up and took their coats off. Red letters on their snow-white T-shirts read STOP, STOCK-OUTS! This silent protest was a way for the patients to express their indignation with access to treatment in the country.

“Fight with HIV is a joint fight, which includes civil society and the volunteers who are now standing in front of us,” said the public official about the protest.

Disease of the system

According to experts from the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition in EECA (ITPCru), stock-outs are a systematic problem in Russia.

“The Ministry of Health announces tenders too late, and then the suppliers fail to supply drugs to the regions in time,” said Natalia Yegorova, Monitoring and Advocacy Officer, ITPCru.

Svetlana Prosvirina representing SIMONA+ project mentioned that according to the survey held by the patients’ community, 50% of patients of the AIDS centres faced problems when receiving their antiretroviral therapy (ART), such as stock-outs and frequent changes of treatment regimens.

“Apart from the stock-outs, we also identified other barriers in access to the health services: location of the AIDS centres, queues, long list of medical examinations to be completed before ART initiation (which is a significant barrier for injecting drug users), long-term before treatment start – 1 to 3 months, and health care system-related problems, such as stock-outs of ARV drugs and diagnostic tools,” told Svetlana.

Tim Martino, Deputy Director of UNAIDS called Russia to adopt the international ‘test and treat’ strategy. This approach stipulates treatment initiation not waiting for the immune status going down. Such strategy proved effective in the African states. However, it is still ignored in Russia.

Vinay P. Saldanha, UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern Europe & Central Asia explained that to cover all patients with treatment the price of a yearly course per patient should not exceed USD 100

Timofey Nizhegorodtsev, expert of the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service delivered a speech at the session “Strategies to Enhance Access to ARVT and Drugs to Treat Comorbidities in the EECA in the Light of Current State of Affairs.”

“Currently, a draft law on public health is prepared, which will allow local producers to manufacture the required drugs at affordable prices,” he said

Price reduction is the key

Only a sharp price reduction will make it possible to provide all people in need with treatment in the country, experts say. Vinay P. Saldanha, UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern Europe & Central Asia explained that to cover all patients with treatment the price of a yearly course per patient should not exceed USD 100.

“Only in this case, the Russian Federation has a chance to achieve the 90-90-90 targets and meet the commitment to end the HIV epidemic by 2030,” pointed out Mr. Saldanha.

The key results of EECAAC 2018, as well as the actions to be taken, are included to the Final Statement of the VI Conference. The document is currently to be adopted by the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-being (Rospotrebnadzor) and will be published before the end of April.

EECAAC 2018: in Search of Optimism

Peter Reiss, Local Co-Chair of the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018), Professor of Medicine at the Academic Medical Centre (AMC) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Author: Marina Maximova, Kazakhstan

While the VI Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference (EECAAC 2018) was going on in Moscow, Svetlana (the name was changed), a 28-year-old woman living in Karaganda, Kazakhstan became a mother for the first time. It seems that these events are not related at all. However, these two facts were brought together not accidentally. At the international forum, scientists, medical professionals, policy-makers, public officials, international experts and civil society activists argued and discussed how to curb the HIV epidemic and achieve the ambitious 90-90-90 UNAIDS targets. Meanwhile, they were not particularly optimistic. At the same time, a woman living with HIV for eight years gave birth to healthy twins. Maybe it is a sign that we should not give up hope?

Optimists and pessimists together

The question of HIV vaccine has become proverbial. For many years, the best scientific minds of the world have been struggling to invent it. There is no consensus among scientists about the feasibility of a panacea for HIV – the discovery of a vaccine.

Vadim Pokrovskiy, Head of the Russian Federal AIDS Centre honestly says that he is pessimistic about it.

“Personally, I think that it is not possible. There are infectious diseases, to which people naturally become immune after they recover from them. HIV is more like malaria, which does not belong to this category. However, I would be very happy to see such vaccine discovered,” says Dr. Pokrovskiy.

Salim Abdool Karim, Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), vice versa, says that he has never been as optimistic about the HIV vaccine as today.

“A study on the production of HIV antibodies is already in progress. In South Africa, there is a woman, whose antibodies kill about 87% of all known modifications of the virus. We take her antibodies and test their efficiency in HIV prevention,” tells the scientist.

This positive attitude is also shared by Peter Reiss, Local Co-Chair of the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018), Professor of Medicine at the Academic Medical Centre (AMC) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He points out that HIV vaccine trials successfully started in Thailand several years ago. Currently, research is going on and the preliminary data are promising. However, this work takes a long time.

Prolonged ART gives a hope for tomorrow

At EECAAC 2018, the leading world scientists shared information about the development of two ARV drugs with prolonged effect

At EECAAC 2018, the leading world scientists shared information about the development of two ARV drugs with prolonged effect. It means that people living with HIV will be able to substitute daily pills with periodic injections. It is much more convenient. Currently, two major research studies of prolonged-action drugs are going on in South Africa.

Stefano Vella, Head of the Department of Therapeutic Research and Medicines Evaluation at the Italian National Institute of Health says that the studies of prolonged-action drugs are currently underway.

“It is not just about injections, but also about implants. For instance, like female contraceptives. It is important that there should be an option to remove them in case of side effects. Every patient should have a choice which medicines to use and the patient’s preferences should be taken into account,” he says.

There is no doubt that the right to choose has an impact on adherence to treatment. For those who have problems with adherence, the ability to take drugs not in the form of pills and without the need of daily administration may be the key to undetectable viral load and better quality of life.

Just a story

Svetlana from Karaganda learned about her positive HIV status when she was 20. The woman did not have a vaccine. For a long time, she could not accept her diagnosis. She even had suicidal thoughts. Svetlana had no idea how to go on living her life. However, she met a man, fell in love with him and they got married. ARV medicine helped her to give birth to healthy children. The happy mother with her babies has already been released from the maternity clinic. The twins have a good appetite; they are quickly gaining weight. This is the main cause of optimism for the woman.

According to the statistics since the 1990s, only in Karaganda region mothers living with HIV gave birth to more than 400 babies. Last year, 36 babies were born. They all remain under follow-up care until they turn 18 months old.