Deadline Extended: AIDS 2018 – Call for Volunteers Speaking Russian

AFEW International with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs implements a range of activities to empower Community Based Organisations (CBOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), activists, policy makers, stakeholders, researchers and clinicians from Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region to take part in the XXII International AIDS Conference 2018 in Amsterdam (AIDS2018).

Eastern Europe and Central Asia is the only region in the world where the AIDS epidemic is on a steep rise. Whereas the whole world celebrates 50% decrease in the new cases of HIV, the EECA region has experienced almost 60% increase in annual new HIV infections between 2010 and 2015. In 2015, there were an estimated 1.5 million people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The vast majority (85%) of people living with HIV in the region live in Russia and Ukraine.

Unfortunately, the EECA region has traditionally been underrepresented at the AIDS conferences. For instance, at the last International AIDS Conference in Durban, there were only 128 delegates from EECA region. Several barriers such as the costs of participation and language barrier led to a disproportionally lower presence of the delegates from EECA region at the AIDS conferences since its start.

As one of the means to tackle the language barrier AFEW International comes up with an initiative to build up a pool of language buddies – a group of enthusiastic people residing in the Netherlands, speaking English and Russian (the common language for the EECA region) who are willing to support delegates from EECA at the Conference.

Commitments:

  • You are available for volunteer work during the whole duration of the AIDS 2018 Conference, from 23 till 27 July 2018, and, if interested, available for preparatory work a week in advance prior to the conference.
  • You are available for three and a half days of up to four hours a day to volunteer on general tasks at the AIDS 2018 under coordination of the Volunteer Programme of the International AIDS Society, the conference Organizer.
  • Apart from the general tasks you are willing to be involved with language support to individuals and groups of delegates from the EECA region at the AIDS 2018 sessions, workshops, exhibition, Global Village, and other activities of the conference. Language support can take form of providing support in communication between delegates from EECA with other delegates – for instance in the Global Village area; whisper translation for small groups in some sessions; helping to find directions in the conference venue; etc.
  • The total amount of working time will not exceed 6 hours per day. The shift can start as early as 7 am and finish as late as 9:30 pm.

Language buddy qualification requirements:

  • You are older than 18 years old.
  • You have a good command of English and Russian. Dutch is an asset.
  • You are disciplined and responsible.
  • You are outgoing and interested in people from different background and cultures.
  • It is an asset if you have experience in dealing with sensitive issues when it comes to working with key groups such as gays, lesbians, bisexuals, people living with HIV, people using drugs, and any other specific features in people.

What you get as a volunteer:

  • As an AIDS 2018 volunteer, you will be able to attend the full conference programme outside of your volunteer shifts. This means you will have access to the full conference, such as the exhibition, satellite programme, plenaries and regular session as well as the workshops and other events and the possibility to network with higher officials from the international organisations.
  • Food vouchers will be provided for all the days you are volunteering at AIDS 2018.
  • A free crash course on language sensitivity will be provided a few weeks before the conference which will give you the advantage to freshen up your Russians skills, will help to feel confident with the specific vocabulary of the AIDS 2018 and provide opportunities to interact with peers.
  • There is no travel compensation, all commute costs to the Conference venue will be your responsibility.

Attention! Dealine extended! If you are ready to support as language buddy volunteer, please fill in this google form before 10 April 2018, and we will get in touch with you with further details. 

The AIDS 2018 Conference will take place at the Amsterdam RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre. Address: Europaplein 2-22, 1078 GZ Amsterdam.

Vinay Saldanha: Treatment should be Provided to all HIV-positive People

Author: Anastasia Petrova, Russia

This year, the issue of treatment coverage for people living with HIV has been broadly discussed in Russia on World AIDS Day. We are talking on this topic with Vinay Patrick Saldanha, Director, Regional Support Team for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA), UNAIDS.

– Mister Saldanha, today at the press conference, organised by the movement Patient Control, we heard that in Russia only up to one third of all people living with HIV receive treatment. What measures are to be taken to reverse the situation?

– A hard and fast decision is to be taken on adopting the ‘test and treat’ strategy. In line with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, which have already been used for several years, all people with the HIV status should get uninterrupted and high-quality treatment. At the same time, treatment guidelines issued by the Russian Ministry of Health state that priority in treatment should be given to the patients with the immune status below 500 СD4 cells. Thus, with the limited access to drugs, doctors have to prescribe therapy to those who have the weakest immunity and open the so-called waiting lists. In many regions, the situation is critical.

Now in Russia there are mass HIV testing campaigns. However, to motivate people to get tested the second part of the strategy – the ‘treat’ component – should also be offered. If a person is concerned as he had some questionable contacts or he knows that his sexual partner is HIV positive, it means a direct risk of infection. It would be very good for such person to check his HIV status. However, if he knows in advance that he would not get treatment and that the AIDS centres have the “waiting lists,” he will not be highly motivated to get tested. To remove those questions from the agenda, all national governments should adopt the ‘test and treat’ policy. I am happy to say that in Eastern Europe and Central Asia there are quite a few countries, which have already announced following this policy: Armenia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. They treat all patients who test positive: the patient can seek and get help. If Russia wants to achieve the 90/90/90 target by the end of 2020, the decision to ‘test and treat’ is to be taken in 2018.

– A year ago, Russia adopted the State Strategy to Combat the Spread of HIV through 2020. How do you assess its effectiveness?

– The very fact that there is such a strategy is a great achievement. For many years, the epidemiological situation remained complicated due to the lack of a strategy. For the first time, the government issued an important state document calling to urgently accelerate the measures to combat HIV. It is very good that such measures are to be taken not only by the government, but also by the society, mass media, private sector and trade unions.

However, it would be good if people who prepared the Strategy would define clear and measurable targets for each year: what should be the reduction in the new HIV cases, how many patients are to be enrolled to treatment. The five-year goals are defined but how is it possible to split them and follow up on the achievement of interim targets each year?

– Vadim Pokrovsky said that the Strategy does not have a strong financial background…

– It is a question of state priorities. I think that Russia, having the resources and knowing how to distribute them in the best way, is able to find the sufficient funding to combat HIV. This is not just about the budget increase. There are high-quality drugs, which are less expensive than those procured in Russia. Thus, apart from allocating two or three times more money from the state budget, the cost of drugs may also be reduced. In the last two years, thanks to the pro-active approach of the Ministry of Health, an unprecedented reduction in the cost of HIV treatment in Russia was observed. Such price reduction strategy shall be continued until all patients have access to drugs. My estimate is that in the EECA region the cost of treatment should not exceed 200 US dollars per patient.

– Speaking about price reduction, do you mean compulsory licensing?

– This as well. When compulsory licenses were discussed for the first time, the Russian government represented by the Ministry of Health was concerned that the foreign pharmaceutical companies may leave our country, stop the clinical trials and Russia would be excluded from the innovations. I know over 15 countries in the world, which issued compulsory licences for HIV drugs. In none of those cases, none of the pharmaceutical companies ceased their activities in such countries. Vice versa, such policy led to sharper price declines and scaled up access to treatment. That is why I strongly welcome the discussion of this question at all levels.

One option is to issue a license to produce drugs in the country and another is to facilitate the procurement of quality drugs from abroad at lower prices. Thus, Brazil, for example, for 20 years was famous for producing most “first line” drugs for its citizens. However, three years ago, even before the WHO guidelines were issued, it was the first country to make a decision to treat all people living with HIV. After all the costs were calculated, it became clear that such coverage could not be reached if only locally produced medicines are used. Then the country started purchasing generic medicine from Indian brand producers for 400 US dollars per patient a year. It is a very interesting example of how access to high-quality medicine may be ensured without violating the patent rights.

– Surely, you will take part in the XXII International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam next year. What are your plans for this event?

– We have a joint plan for two very important conferences: VI Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference (EECAAC 2018) and the XXII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam next year. As UNAIDS, we are co-organizers of the ЕССААС 2018 and members of the AIDS 2018 Committee. We encourage specialists and mass media representatives to not only take an active part but also to build kind of a strategic bridge between those conferences. We would like the international participants to intensively share their experience at ECCAAC 2018 and representatives of the EECA region to broadly present their developments at AIDS 2018.

Georgia is getting ready to end the AIDS epidemic

Author: Irma Kakhurashvili, Georgia

The Director of the Infectious Diseases, AIDS and Clinical Immunology Research and Development Centre Tengiz Tsertsvadze estimates that number of people with HIV/AIDS in 2017 in Georgia was as high as 12,000

The UNAIDS 90-90-90 target, stipulating that 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression, was the key issue brought up at the National Conference dedicated to the World AIDS Day in Tbilisi. The conference was organized by the Infectious Diseases, AIDS and Clinical Immunology Research and Development Centre and the Georgian AIDS Association. Its motto was ‘Test All, Treat All, End the AIDS Epidemic in Georgia!’ Conference participants signed the Declaration ‘End the AIDS Epidemic in Georgia.’ The Declaration is a summary of the key effective measures to be taken to curb the AIDS epidemic in the country.

In 2004, Georgia became the first and remains the only Eastern European country providing universal access to the antiretroviral therapy (ART), which allows significantly increasing the life expectancy and the quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS. In the period from 2004 to 2015, AIDS mortality in the country decreased almost fivefold.

New efforts and new results needed

However, despite the significant progress in the response to HIV, there are still unresolved issues in the country.

“In Georgia, the main problem is that a big number of new HIV infections are not diagnosed. 2010-2016 data confirm this trend. That is why the total number of HIV/AIDS patients is growing. Usually, the real indicators are several times higher than the official statistics. According to our estimates, in 2010 the real number of new infections was about 1,000 cases, while only 455 cases were diagnosed. In 2017, the estimated number of people with HIV/AIDS was as high as 12,000, with only 719 new cases diagnosed,” says Tengiz Tsertsvadze, the Director of the Infectious Diseases, AIDS and Clinical Immunology Research and Development Centre. “Most people learn about their status by chance. 55% of HIV patients become aware of the infection at later stages, and 30% are already at the advanced stages when HIV is diagnosed.”

The most promising intervention to curb the AIDS epidemic in Georgia is the so-called treatment as prevention approach. A person living with HIV who has access to the effective ART does not transmit the virus to others. That is why, if such “treatment as prevention” strategy is applied to detect all HIV/AIDS cases and cover all HIV-positive people with health services, the epidemic can be eliminated.

According to Tengiz Tsertsvadze, this goal may be achieved through implementation of a unique national hepatitis C elimination program, which can play a crucial role in ending not only hepatitis C, but also HIV.

The fact is that the HIV/AIDS detection rate may be significantly improved through integration of HIV and hepatitis C testing within this program, stipulating provision of free treatment to about 20,000 patients a year. The Georgian Ministry of Health expects that thanks to this program in the nearest future there will be zero new cases of hepatitis C, and 95% of patients will be cured. All patients, irrespective of the stage of their disease, will be able to become participants of this national program.

Recent trends

HIV/AIDS Prevention Program Director at the Georgian Harm Reduction Network Maka Gogia says that in 2011-2017 there was a sharp reduction in the HIV rate among people who inject drugs

In two recent years, there were no babies born with HIV in Georgia. Besides, according to Maka Gogia, HIV/AIDS Prevention Program Director at the Georgian Harm Reduction Network, in 2011-2017 there was a sharp reduction in the HIV rate among people who inject drugs. While in 2011 the share of such people in the total number of detected cases was 45%, by 2017 such share fell down to 24%. This is a result of free syringe distribution.

The annual dynamics of HIV transmission routes in the new cases of HIV/AIDS shows reduction in new cases among injecting drug users with a growing proportion in the sexual route of transmission, especially in MSM (men who have sex with men). Nino Tsereteli, Executive Director of the Centre for Information and Counselling on Reproductive Health “Tanadgoma” says that a joint study of the AIDS Centre and “Tanadgoma” showed that in the recent years HIV/AIDS prevalence among men who have sex with men exceeds 20%.

According to the AIDS Centre the current statistics are: 43.1% of people living with HIV are injecting drug users; 44.4% get infected through heterosexual contacts, 9.8% – through homo- and bisexual contacts; about 1.5% are children who contracted HIV from their mothers during pregnancy; 0.5% cases are attributed to blood transfusions.

Statistics

As of 1 December 2017, the Georgian AIDS Centre registered 6,711 cases of HIV (5,013 men, 1,698 women). Most patients are 29-39 years old.

577 new HIV/AIDS cases have been detected in 11 months of 2017. ARV therapy is provided to 4,018 patients, including 48 children.

As of 2017, about 12,000 people were infected with HIV, 3,648 patients developed AIDS, and 1,339 died.

In Tajikistan LGBTI Face Blackmailing and Threats

Author: Nargis Hamrabaeva, Tajikistan

In Tajikistan, gays and lesbians were included into a register maintained by law enforcement agencies. However, there are cases when this information is used for blackmailing and intimidation.

In October this year, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Tajikistan published the list of members of LGBTI (the abbreviation was first used in English and stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) groups in the departmental magazine. In the register, there are 319 gays and 78 lesbians. “They have all been identified in the course of operations implemented by the national law enforcement department codenamed “Morality” and “Purge.” The fact that they belong to LGBTI groups has been proved and they have been entered into the police register,” informs the magazine.

HIV experts emphasize that this category of people is one of the populations vulnerable to HIV. “The data of sentinel surveillance in Tajikistan show that in 2015 the level of HIV prevalence among gay men was 2.7%, whereas in 2011 – 1.5%,” says Dilshod Sayburkhanov, the Deputy Director of the Republican AIDS Centre in Tajikistan.

“It will be difficult to regain their trust”

Our interviewees – representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and LGBTI groups – agreed to comment on the situation provided that they will stay anonymous.

Representative of an NGO protecting the rights of LGBTI (the abbreviation was first used in English and stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) told us that, according to the official statistics, currently there are 13.5 thousand members of sexual minorities residing in Tajikistan.

In his opinion, registration with police may lead to people from LGBTI going underground, exposing their partners to even higher risks. “It will be difficult to regain their trust. This is not a way to resolve the problem of HIV. Vice versa, the problem will grow bigger,” he says.

Blackmailing, intimidation and harassment

Our interviewee is sure that the register of LGBT community members is illegal and harmful for the community members. “It is harmful because all law enforcers will have access to this register, which will lead to the lack of confidentiality, intimidation and blackmailing to earn some money,” he shares his thoughts.

Aziz became a victim of such blackmailing. “When an officer of the local police precinct learned that I belong to the community, he started demanding two thousand dollars from me. He threatened that otherwise my photo and information about me will be on TV and in the internet. I have a wife and a family. Therefore, I had to agree, but where is the guarantee that this situation will not be repeated?” he asks.

Rustam, another representative of the LGBTI community said that just recently he suffered an attack in the entrance hall of the apartment building where he lives. “Two guys attacked me, kicked me down on the floor and were beating me with their feet yelling: “No fags in Tajikistan!” Then they ran away. I do not know where they got information about me as I try to hide my way of life. I am afraid that it came from this register. In fact, I could go to the police, since we have got a security camera at the entrance, but decided against it. I know that law enforcers will not protect the rights of such people as myself and it will only worsen my situation,” he says.

In Tajikistan, LGBTI face not only blackmailing and intimidation but also cyberbullying – harassment in the internet. That is why many members of the LGBTI community try to leave the country and seek asylum. According to some reports, in the recent year two gay men and two transgenders from Tajikistan were given asylum in Western Europe because they were victims of harassment based on their sexual orientation.

AIDS 2018 Scholarship Programme

Through the Scholarship Programme, the conference organizers commit to make the AIDS 2018 conference accessible to people from resource-limited settings, researchers, young people, key and vulnerable populations and community representatives.

International Scholarship Programme

The Scholarship Programme is open to everyone around the world working or volunteering in the field of HIV and AIDS who is at least 16 years of age at the time of the conference. This programme provides financial assistance to help people who would otherwise be unable to benefit from the conference.

Priority is given to:

  • Those whose participation will help enhance their work in their own communities
  • Those who are able to assist in the transfer of skills and knowledge acquired at the conference
  • Those whose abstract, workshop or Global Village and Youth activity has been selected.

The conference secretariat offers a free Abstract Mentor Programme for young or less experienced researchers to benefit from expert mentoring. Learn more and submit your draft abstract today.

Scholarship selection is based on a non-biased scoring system. A Scholarship Review Committee (SRC) contributes to the reviewing and scoring of the applications.

Only a limited number of scholarships is available, and applicants are strongly encouraged to seek other/additional funding sources. You can apply for an international scholarship here.

Media Scholarship Programme

A limited number of scholarships will also be available for media representatives. Media scholarship applicants are asked to provide media accreditation and supporting documents such as samples of their work and a letter from their editor. You can apply for a media scholarship here.

Type of support

Scholarship applicants are able to request a full or partial scholarship.

  • A full scholarship includes:
    • Registration fee for the conference (includes access to all sessions and exhibitions).
    • Travel(pre-paid airfare at the lowest fare available, from the nearest international airport).
    • Accommodation (shared room in a budget hotel for the days of the conference only).
    • Modest daily living allowance for the duration of the conference (23-27 July 2018).
  • A partial scholarship may include any combination of the above.

Applications are open online through the conference profile until 5 February 2018.

Source: AIDS 2018

Deadline Extended: Stipends for Dutch Based Delegates to Visit EECAAC 2018

VI Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference (EECAAC 2018)

“Mobilizing resources: experience, investments, innovations”

18-20 April 2018, Moscow, Russian Federation

The organizers of the VI International Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference (EECAAC 2018) provide 10 stipends for Netherlands-based organizations to participate in the Conference. The forum will be held three months before the XXII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018), which will be hosted by Amsterdam on 23-27 July 2018.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs acts as the observer in the EECAAC 2018 Organising Committee to enable clear links and continuity of discussions at both conferences. Why is it important? One of the five objectives of AIDS 2018 is to spotlight the state of the epidemic and the HIV response in Eastern Europe and Central Asia with a focus on investments, structural determinants and services. EECAAC 2018 is a platform for scientific exchange in the EECA region and will open the dialogue on partnerships and joint effort coordination in HIV response which will be continued at AIDS 2018.

The main goal of EECAAC 2018 is to focus on measures for eliminating the HIV epidemic and other public health concerns in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, present high-performance programs and provide experience exchange opportunities for scientists, experts, policy makers, healthcare professionals, activists and public figures in relation to the best HIV response strategies.

VI International Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference is expected to convene up to 3000 participants and will feature:

  • Presentation of innovative approaches to the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, opportunistic and concomitant infections.
  • Strengthening the link between science and practice.
  • Development of regional healthcare systems.
  • Exploring ideas around the new “AIDS/HIV-free generation”.
  • Expanding the role of sport in HIV response.
  • Discussing HIV and migration.
  • Expanding the role of partnerships and joint effort coordination in HIV response.
  • Examining economic aspects of HIV response.

 Conference organizers:

  • Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
  • Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor)

Why stipends for Dutch organizations?

The stipends will be provided to 10 representatives of Netherlands-based organizations in order to stimulate greater presence of these organizations at EECAAC 2018 as well as facilitate cooperation between the Netherlands and the EECA countries in HIV/AIDS response and related areas. The XXII International AIDS Conference will be specifically featured at EECAAC 2018.

Representatives of the Dutch NGOs and scientific institutes, activists working in the field of HIV/AIDS, SRHR, HIV and co-infections are invited to apply for a stipend to visit EECAAC 2018 and support the Dutch delegation at the Conference. Representatives will also be encouraged to occasionally represent the Netherlands at the Dutch Booth and/or to promote their NGO at the Community Village.

What do the stipends cover?

  1. Return economy class flight.
  2. Airport – hotel – airport transfer.
  3. Hotel – Conference – hotel transfers.
  4. Accommodation in the hotel (3-4 stars).
  5. Meals (breakfasts, lunches or dinners) for all days of the Conference.
  6. Per diems will not be provided.
  7. Support in obtaining visa if required.

Who can apply?

Individuals complying with all of the following criteria may apply:

  1. The applicant is 18 years of age by the time of the Conference and a staff member of an NGO, community-based organisation, scientific institution, network, association, or non-registered entity, located in the Netherlands
  2. An organisation, represented by the applicant, works in one of the following areas:
    1. HIV/AIDS prevention or service provision.
    2. HIV/AIDS and co-infection with TB and/or viral Hepatitis prevention or service provision.
    3. HIV/AIDS related non-medical research.
    4. HIV/AIDS and co-infection with TB and/or viral Hepatitis research.
    5. Support and service provision to the most vulnerable population including people using drugs, sex workers, LGBTQ, MSM.
    6. HIV/AIDS prevention and/or sexual health education for young people.
  3. An organisation, represented by the applicant is non-profit.
  4. An organisation, represented by the applicant, is working in the EECA region or has a demonstrable interest in this region.
  5. The applicant commits to actively participate in the whole duration of the Conference.
  6. The applicant is eager to contribute to the preparation for AIDS 2018 after the return from EECAAC by sharing knowledge and experiences at the events, which will be eventually organised in the run of the AIDS 2018 in the Netherlands.

How to apply?

In order to apply, please follow these simple steps:

  1. Follow this link in order to register for the Conference.
  2. Fill in the required fields at STEP 4 of the registration process.3. Wait for the decision of the Selection Commission regarding your application.

Deadline extended: applications submission closes at 24 January 2018.

Stipend awardees announcement: 31 January 2018.

The Selection Commission

The Selection Commission will consist of representatives of the AFEW International, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, GNP+, and independent consultants. The selection of the candidates will be based on criteria listed above and the following considerations:

  1. Even representation of the different areas and target groups.
  2. Strong commitment for active participation in EECAAC 2018.
  3. Strong commitment to share knowledge and experiences after returning to the Netherlands.
  4. Preference will be given to those candidates who otherwise wouldn’t be able to visit EECAAC 2018.
  5. A maximum of one representative per organization.

AIDS Day in Ukraine: Online Test, Quest for Adolescents

Author: Yana Kazmirenko, Ukraine

On December 1, an online HIV test was presented in Kyiv

On December 1, a wide range of activities marked the World AIDS in Ukraine. On this day, the first in Ukraine online test for HIV was presented in Kyiv. It is available at HIVtest.com.ua or via a mobile application ‘HIV test.’

“The test makes an audit of your health, rapidly assessing the risk of infection, and offers information about the nearest testing sites,” said Dmitry Sherembey, the Chairman of the Coordination Council of the All-Ukrainian Network of PLWH.

Four weeks before the campaign, organizers placed billboards with the intriguing social advertising – a dangerous blade hidden in a juicy burger ­– in the streets of Kyiv. Dmitry Sherembey reveals the intrigue: for many people HIV is invisible, with 130 thousand out of 250 thousand people living with HIV in Ukraine not aware of their diagnosis.

The test contains about two dozen of questions – their number depends on the respondent’s lifestyle. For example, the question “Do you use condoms when having sex or not?” is relevant in Ukraine, where 51% of people living with HIV get infected through the sexual route of transmission. After a person answers all the questions, the test will show the probability of HIV infection and will show the information about the nearest clinic or confidential counseling room to get tested. The online test has been developed for two months and, according to Dmitry Sherembey, it shows the result that person is getting after the testing in 40% of cases.

Testing should become a routine procedure

Dmitry Sherembey shows the online test on his phone

According to Pavel Skala, Director of the Policy and Partnership at the Alliance for Public Health, the annual campaigns dedicated to the World AIDS Day should be changing and moving forward. On one hand, public awareness on HIV is growing, but on the other hand – people are losing interest in the repeating topics.

Testing should become a routine procedure for every Ukrainian, emphasizes Roman Ilyk, the Deputy Minister of Health. He says that over 50% of cases are diagnosed at the third and fourth clinical stages of HIV infection, when the person’s health is poor. 80% of people who die are 25-49 years old. The Ministry of Health called on Ukrainians to get tested for HIV and underlined that early detection of the disease allows to timely access treatment.

Interactive activities for teenagers

Every year, civil society organizations conduct campaigns for teenagers dedicated to the World AIDS Day. Alexander Mogilka, the coordinator of the social support project for adolescents at the Kharkiv Day Care Center for Children and Youth “Compass” thinks that the success of Ukraine in curbing the HIV epidemic largely depends on the progress in working with this target group. This year, “Compass” organized a quest called “The Safety Route” in Chervonohrad, Kharkiv region.

Teenagers from Chervonohrad walked the Safety Route

“The format of this game was developed by the German agency GIZ. The teams are to go through several checkpoints: contraception, routes of HIV transmission, environment assessment. When you answer a question, you may go to the next point,” tells Alexander.

He claims that 70% of “troubled” teenagers have experience of using drugs. Usually, these are children from dysfunctional families.

“Before, teenagers could access drugs through dens, but now they can just use internet and stashes hidden in agreed venues. There is a sad contrast: the drug business is developing and taking new forms and the prevention is lagging behind,” sums up Alexander.

He underlines that to develop new formats of working with young people – combining quests, flash mobs, and social campaigns – is a new challenge for civil society organizations.

The Train is off but HIV Stays

Author: Anastasia Petrova, Russia

Testing in Kurgan

From 8 July to 20 October 2017, a train carriage went throughout the territory of Russia offering HIV testing services to everyone interested. The campaign was aimed at raising the awareness and increasing the coverage with testing services among the general public.

The strategic train

The train offering HIV testing is a project of the Russian Ministry of Health in cooperation with the Russian Railways. The campaign was initiated within the State Strategy to Combat the Spread of HIV in Russia through 2020. Long-distance passenger trains were equipped with an additional carriage offering free and confidential testing. Project workers conducted pre- and post-test counseling and informed people about HIV and the ways of its transmission. The route lied from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg and included the regions most affected with HIV. Apart from offering HIV testing on the way, mobile laboratories were also functioning on the railway stations. The campaign was aimed at the first component of the global 90/90/90 strategy, which stipulates that 90% of people living with HIV should be aware of their status.

The silent epidemic

The carriage where the testing was conducted

The testing campaign covered 24 regions, with the following cities leading in terms of people tested: Chelyabinsk (2,039 people), Nizhnevartovsk (1,645 people), Irkutsk (1,446 people), Kurgan (1,290 people), and Samara (1,227 people). Moscow was the city with the lowest coverage – only 290 people got tested there. According to the Ministry of Health, within the campaign 25 thousand people were able to get tested and receive professional counseling in the carriage and in railway stations.

“The fact that those 24 regions were covered is important. Here in Russia, 10 out of 85 regions have 50% of new HIV cases, and as for the 24 regions covered, they have over 70% of such cases. That is why I think that this campaign has a concrete result as it is focused on the most affected regions,” the chief independent expert in HIV diagnostics and treatment at the Russian Ministry of Health, Yevgeny Voronin is saying.

Awareness-raising materials in the format of railway tickets

It is interesting that no official statistics was announced on the total number of HIV cases detected. However, according to the Minister of Health, Veronika Skvortsova, as of the date when the train was passing Moscow the number of HIV positive cases detected was 248. Thus, the total number of such cases is more than 250 or 1% of the people tested. Considering the fact that testing was conducted in the general population, this number shows the severe epidemiological situation in the country and proves the tendency of HIV epidemic going beyond the key populations.

The train is off

Such campaign is an unprecedented intervention aimed at raising the awareness of people in the area of HIV/AIDS. Apart from testing passengers, the campaign was an important newsmaker. Reports in federal and regional mass media allowed millions of people in Russia to learn about the importance of this problem and about the necessity of regular testing. A positive outcome is that after the train left mobile sites to continue testing remained at some railway stations.

Closing ceremony in St. Petersburg

Alongside with that, if the data about one percent of the HIV cases detected in the general population is confirmed, it will mean that the situation has got out of control. In this case, the measures taken by the Ministry of Health are to be scaled up a hundred times and are to be aimed not only at awareness raising and detection of new cases but also at treatment. Testing as it is is not a measure of response to the epidemic. Every patient should receive therapy in order to achieve minimal viral load not to transmit the virus to other people. However, in Russia less than a half of people living with HIV get the necessary medications.

 

In Kazakhstan Students Debated on HIV

Author: Marina Maksimova, Kazakhstan

Opening ceremony of the first international debate tournament in Almaty “SpeakUp: AIDS”

Over 400 students from universities of the CIS countries took part in the first international debate tournament on HIV “SpeakUp: AIDS” in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

“Almaty is the city of students and active young people, who are interested in gaining knowledge, in particular in the area of healthy lifestyle and HIV prevention. Out of 5 000 people living with HIV in Almaty one-third is young people. Our city has a tradition to conduct spectacular campaigns dedicated to the World AIDS Day. This year, it was the first time we held debates on this topic among young people,” said Murat Daribayev, deputy akim (akim  is the head of a local government in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – note of editor) of Almaty.

Among the debate participants, there was the best 2017 speaker in the world representing the international debate movement, the main judge Raffy Marshall (Oxford), students from the major higher educational institutions of the country as well as from the UK, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Sweden. The international panel selected 120 teams to take part in debates on this critical social issue. The tournament was held in line with the British parliament model.

The right to argue

Aleksandr Semenov, a student of the law department at the Kazakh National University is not a newbie in the debate movement. For the seventh year in a row, he wins his right to take part in the debates. He got through to the final round ten times, won five tournaments and even trained other debaters.

“The debates are a separate culture. It is sort of a recharger for your brain to always keep you thinking and analyzing to be able to assess a problem from various points of view. Additionally, you have to do it as fast as possible. The topics are always different: politics, culture, religion, sports… It was the first time when we had our debates on HIV. Therefore, the first conclusion is that we cannot keep silent, we should talk about it and ruin the stereotypes. Young people may be the opinion leaders,” says Aleksandr.

There are two people on his team: he and Altynay Dzhumasheva, a student of the American University of Central Asia from Kyrgyzstan. For debaters, it is not important which country or university the team members represent, the main thing is the efficiency of their joint efforts, mutual support, ability to swiftly catch the idea voiced by the partner and develop it in an emotional and convincing manner.

Stronger arguments

At the tournament, the debaters could use any of the three languages: English, Kazakh or Russian. The organizers selected several key topics. They included digitalization of the health care, drug use problems, sexual education, HIV and children, stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV. The participants were to be competent in all the topics.

“One of the rounds addressed the topic of drug addiction. What should change in the countries and in minds to give information about drugs and for drug users to have a choice of treatment and rehabilitation options? Our “opposition” team had to resist a storm of arguments from the “government.” Finally, the victory was ours! Our arguments on the need to adopt an efficient state drug policy and open state rehabilitation centres appeared to be stronger,” tells Altynay Dzhumasheva.

Counting on the young people

Debates among young people in Kazakhstan are a new instrument in response to AIDS. Organizers of the debates included the local Almaty administration, the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Republican AIDS Center, the Health Department of Almaty, UNAIDS, and UNICEF.

Search for the new formats of HIV prevention among young people is an important topic to be discussed at the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam.

“Kazakhstan has already started its preparations to declare the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. We hope that information about HIV will continue to be accessible and accurate. The progress we have achieved has been to a great extent made possible thanks to people not being silent and youth being actively engaged,” HIV/AIDS Specialist from UNICEF Ruslan Malyuta is saying.

The winner of the English league of the first international debate tournament on HIV was a team from the People’s Friendship University of Russia. The best team in the Kazakh league was from the Taraz State University (Kazakhstan), and in the Russian league – from the Eurasian National University (Astana).

Five People Disclosed their HIV Status to Mark the World AIDS Day in Kyrgyzstan

Author: Olga Ochneva, Kyrgyzstan

The Shukurov family tells about their HIV status during the campaign in the Kara-Balta school

Kyrgyzstan marked the World AIDS Day on December 1 under the Slogan “My Health, My Right.” Competitions, quizzes, a flash mob, debates, a race, a fashion show, and meetings with journalists were dedicated to the World AIDS Day. The most surprising thing during these events was the number of people who publicly disclosed their HIV status.

“Live” stories

Every year on the first winter day mass media publish a year’s supply of reports on the situation with HIV and its prevention. This time, the main message in this load of media reports was the topic of fighting stigma against people living with HIV (PLWH). This message was delivered by people who decided to publicly disclose their HIV status and tell their stories. The start to this spontaneous campaign for the freedom from fears, myths and prejudices was given by Baktygul Shukurova in September this year at the National HIV Conference. Baktygul says that she decided to make this step for all PLWH, to refute myths and give people an opportunity to reflect on the fact that everyone has a right to life and health. Back then, Yevgeniy Yuldashev also made a decision to have an open conversation with journalists.

Charitable race to help children living with HIV was supported by people of different ages and occupations

Following the example of his wife Baktygul, Umid Shukurov also disclosed his HIV status during the December 1 campaign in his home town of Kara-Balta. The spouses opened the truth, which they had been hiding for seven years, and that, as they say, helped them to feel free. On November 29, two more women disclosed their status.

Race to support people living with HIV

A charitable race “My Health, My Right” was organized in one of the Bishkek parks with the USAID support. Despite the cold Saturday morning, over two hundred people took part in the three- and six-kilometre races. Participants had a chance to donate some money to buy New Year presents for children living with HIV. The task of this race was to raise the awareness on the need to be responsible about one’s health and to prevent the spread of HIV.

HIV Quiz Night

Participants of the Quiz Night had only one minute to think over the questions, but many of them replied ahead of time

UNAIDS organized a Quiz Night dedicated to the topic “Right to Health” in the context of HIV. The battle for the title of the smartest brought together 18 teams, each of them making a money contribution. Among the participants, there were teams of journalists, health professionals, students, staff members of AIDS organizations and fans of the Quiz Night game. The participants had to answer 20 questions. Questions about HIV related to the areas of medicine, cinema, history, and music. The best performing team got the game bank and the viewers learned many unexpected facts about HIV and health.

Prevention month

The Republican AIDS Centre dedicated its activities within the month to mark the World AIDS Day to prevention and fighting stigma against PLWH. There was a contest for the best materials on HIV among college and high school students and journalists in three nominations: video, poster, and article. Twenty teams took part in the debate tournament.

Female penal colony against HIV and violence

Women from the penal colony No. 2 demonstrate creativity while talking about important issues

This day was also marked in the penal institutions. AIDS Foundation East-West in the Kyrgyz Republic organized a creative contest in the female penal colony No. 2. Each team presented a leaflet, a dance, a song and two theatre performances on two cross-cutting topics – how to prevent HIV and how to protect yourself from violence. Women spent a month on working on the scenarios and creating the costumes and, as a result, the event was very informative and impressive.