Ikram Ibragimov: “AFEW-Tajikistan is the Only NGO with HIV Rapid Testing Services in the Country”

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Author: Olesya Kravchuk, AFEW International

The activities of AIDS Foundation East-West Tajikistan for already 15 years are directed into improving the health of key populations at higher risk of HIV infection. Last December HIV voluntary counselling and rapid testing point was opened in in the representative office of RPO AFEW-Tajikistan in the city of Qurghonteppa. Director of AFEW-Tajikistan Ikram Ibragimov tells about the achievements of the testing point and the organisation in general.

– How was the year of 2016 for AFEW-Tajikistan? What new and important things happened?

– The year was full with events. We changed the statute of the organisation, and we made the areas and directions of its activities wider. We also developed and approved the strategy of the development of the organisation for the medium term, strengthened the partnership and cooperation with governmental and non-governmental organizations in the health sector. We have our own new premises for our office. We renovated it, and have been working there for three months already. In November of the last year we elected the management of the organisation – the board, the audit committee and the director – for the years of 2017-2021. Generally speaking, I would say that 2016 was successful for us.

– Just recently you opened HIV voluntary counselling and rapid testing point in Qurghonteppa. Why did you choose this city to be the “base” for it?

– Our second office is situated in Qurghonteppa. That is why we decided to open HIV voluntary counselling and rapid testing point on the premises where key groups of population are already provided with the direct services. By the way, now we are the only NGO in the country that has such service. Besides, one of the main routes of Afghan drug traffic goes through Khatlon region and that is why drug addiction level in the region is high. People who use drugs are the main target audience for us. As a rule, donors and partners work in the capital and on the North of the country. We decided to go South.

HTC center 3– What are the first results of HIV voluntary counselling and rapid testing point?

– Starting from December, 1 and up until December, 31 there were 18 people tested for HIV: 9 men and 9 women. Thanks God, there were no new cases of HIV found. People find out about our testing point from our website, media, business-cards that we disseminate, information from the clients who visit the centre themselves. Mostly, our visitors are representatives of key populations.

– At the end of 2016 you developed a draft of multilateral agreement on cooperation in the field of prevention of socially significant diseases in Khatlon region and the provision of medical, social and legal services for vulnerable groups. What does it mean?

– This agreement means the cooperation with different organisations that provide complex services (medical-psychological, social, legal and others) to key populations on many levels. The agreement is created on the existing epidemical situation with taking into consideration the socially significant diseases in Khatlon region in Tajikistan. It is planned that 46 government and non-government organisations of the region will become the members of the agreement. We strive to create favourable conditions for the clients of our social support services, so that they can get high-quality, timely and free services of certain specialists. The service should be affordable. Therefore, this memorandum is intended to lower the difficulty of access to services for key populations, and to create a basis for the integration of various services “under one roof.” This is so-called principle of “the single window.”

– What are AFEW-Tajikistan’s plans for 2017?

– As I mentioned before, last year we agreed upon the strategy of the organisational development for 2017-2019. Therefore, all our plans are directed into reaching the quality indicators of this strategy.

Anke van Dam: “I am Looking Forward to an Exciting Year!”


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Author: Olesya Kravchuk, AFEW International

AFEW International executive director Anke van Dam sums up the results of 2016 and gives introduction of AFEW activities for the upcoming year of 2017.

– How was the year of 2016 for AFEW?

– 2016 was a good year for us. We started with two big projects. First one is the second phase of the project Bridging the Gaps: health and rights for key populations (BtG). This second phase lasts until the end of 2020 and allows AFEW to continue with strengthening the capacity of local organisations in the field of harm reduction, client management, service provision and human rights. In the second phase of the BtG project, AFEW will explore the opportunities for the activities for labour migrants, rehabilitation and human rights violations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region.  For the second project, AFEW received a grant from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to engage Eastern Europe and Central Asia into AIDS2018 – the international AIDS conference to be held in Amsterdam in 2018. AIDS2018 gives us a chance to focus on the ongoing increase of new HIV cases, an increased number of multi-drug resistant TB cases and a high prevalence of Hepatitis C in the region. At AIDS2018 we will work hard to highlight those concerns, but also the achievements to mitigate the epidemics. One of the pillars of this engagement is strengthening the capacity of community based participatory research. We received more than 200 applications for a training which AFEW organised for 24 participants from 11 countries of EECA in November. The training is the part of a full package of activities to ensure that we have an increased participation of representatives of EECA by an increased number of abstracts and presentations. AFEW International expanded its team to six staff members. I am very pleased with my colleagues, and feel confident that we as team can build on a better future for the region.

– What were the greatest achievements and challenges for the organisation?

– I was very happy that Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs granted us the project AIDS2018. For me, this is the evidence that we are recognized as a leading organisation in prevention, treatment and care of HIV, TB and viral hepatitis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The increase of our annual budget in 2016 gave us the possibility to expand the team and therefore our contributions to projects, conferences, meetings etc. This leads to AFEW being seen as an important player in the HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health field for EECA. The challenge remains to get sufficient attention and awareness for the groups that we work for: the key populations at risk for HIV, TB and viral hepatitis. People who use drugs, sex workers, LGBTI and prisoners are the ones who are still discriminated and have the least access to the health services. Budgets for these groups are small, and there is still little acknowledgement of their needs from an individual and public health perspective. AFEW will continue working hard to advocate for their rights to health, and to ensure their access to health services. Furthermore, there is still little awareness about the HIV prevalence in Eastern Europe. I hope to be able to change that with our activities for AIDS2018.

– What new things or big changes that happened in 2016 for AFEW?

– In 2016, AFEW expanded its profile of capacity building organisation. We also offered capacity strengthening in community based research. I am proud of our e-learning modules on this topic. Our members of the AFEW network are developing themselves with specific specialisations. AFEW-Ukraine is building up a lot of expertise around young drug users; AFEW-Kyrgyzstan strengthens the capacity of key populations with regards to advocacy and active involvement in governmental bodies; AFEW-Tajikistan increases access to testing and treatment, they managed to get a licence for community based counselling and testing for HIV; AFEW-Kazakhstan is expanding its expertise on prison health. A big change of 2016 was the move to our new office. Now we have working space with a beautiful view on the river IJ in Amsterdam.

IMG_1438– What are the plans for the organisation for 2017?

– We changed our name into AFEW International, and we will no longer spell out AFEW. The reason behind this change is that we do much more than AIDS and HIV, however AFEW as a brand is well known. That is why we keep it as AFEW. A new logo will be presented soon. We have developed a new strategic plan 2017 – 2019, and it is the basis of our work in the coming years. We prepared a communication strategy that gives us guidance to promote AFEW and its work. 2017 must be the year when AFEW leaves its modesty behind, and becomes visible as the leader for the region. The preparations for AIDS2018 will take a lot of our energy. Many activities are planned to bring many representatives of governments, civil society, universities and other institutions to Amsterdam in 2018. I am really excited about the cultural fund that we have established. Cultural initiatives that address stigma and discrimination will be financially supported to present before and during the international AIDS conference. On March 28, we will organise ‘Culture Cures and Kills II’ – a symposium for students of all kind of studies about the challenges and successes of the fight against HIV, TB and viral hepatitis in EECA. This symposium will raise awareness about the diseases in this region among the younger generation, the upcoming young professionals. I hope that many get interested and want to find a job in this field and in EECA. Furthermore, after three years of being a network we, all AFEW members, will evaluate the network construction and discuss how we want to work together in the future. All members have developed and strategized their activities. How does this fit in the bigger picture of AFEW? The aim is a better understanding and added value to the network. I am looking forward to an exciting year!

AFEW Announces Online E-Learning Program

cbpr-engAFEW International is starting the program that is supporting and strengthening the research capacity of organizations acting on behalf of and representing the interests of communities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA.) The purpose of the program is to increase region’s participation in AIDS2018 conference in Amsterdam. The financial support is provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

The program consists of the number of activities, including training for community-based participatory research, small grants program, workshop on dissemination and abstract writing and workshop on presenting research findings on AIDS2018 Conference.

AFEW International gives program participants the opportunity to take part in online e-learning modules for further development of their research skills. The modules are also available for others who are interested in community-based participatory research. Course that costs 75 euros, includes 7 modules on the preparation and conduct of community-based participatory research.

In addition, everyone will be able to participate in the webinar on data analysis, which will be held in late spring or summer of 2017. These days, AFEW International is also working on preparation of workshop on dissemination and abstract writing for AIDS2018, which will be held in autumn of 2017. It is supposed to be available to a wider circle of people.

City Health Conference 2017 Focuses on Developing Healthy Cities

city-health-20176th International City Health Conference ‘Empowerment, Engagement and Partnership: participating to develop healthy cities’ will take place in Basel, Switzerland in September 2017. Currently the call for submissions for presentations, as well as proposals for the sessions within the conference is announced.

AFEW International executive director Anke van Dam is the member of the Programme Advisory Group for the Conference.

“The City Health Conference is an important event for sharing experiences and best practices of interventions at a municipal level. Interventions about health, sports, but also about environment, housing and the homeless people, are presented and discussed. AFEW organized the City Health Conference in Amsterdam in 2014 and brought professionals from multiple disciplines together to discuss concerns and problems at city level from different angles. This is needed since more than a half of the population in the world is living in an urban setting,” Anke van Dam says.

The Conference is hosted by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland and organised by KnowledgeActionChange.

‘Empowerment, Engagement and Partnership: participating to develop healthy cities’ reflects the belief that measures and actions for health promotion and urban development are more effective if the affected populations play an active and co-decisive role in the process of design, development and delivery. Evidence demonstrates that such engagement and participation contributes to sustainable solutions, to a greater identification with urban public space and increased intergenerational communication.

This is an ‘inclusive’ conference, with presenters and participants including NGOs, community projects, advocacy groups, as well as urban and health planners, academics, policy makers and those who deliver services and interventions.

Currently, the organisers welcome both individual submissions for oral and poster presentations, as well as proposals for whole sessions within the conference. The deadline for the submission is March-April 2017. The programme committee will use selected abstracts to construct themed sessions. Authors will be informed if their abstract has been accepted before the posting of the near-final programme in June 2017.

To register for the conference, please, click here.

Compass Centre in Kharkiv, Ukraine: when Policeman Becomes an Uncle

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Authors: Janine Wildschut, Olesya Kravchuk, AFEW International

“I come here often,” Senior Inspector of the Juvenile Prevention Department of National Police of Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Andrii Stadnik is sitting by the table in the centre Compass of Kharkiv City Charitable Foundation Blago. He is smiling and pointing at the table. “Look, here I even have my own cup to drink from…”

Andrii Stadnik started to work in police in 1998. He says he is very happy with his job now. In Compass he meets many children who are grateful for not being send to prison, and he likes to be able to help them. The regulars of the centre even call him uncle Andrii, and this shows very good relations between people in the Ukrainian culture.

18 years old Oleksandr (Sasha) is sitting in front of Andrii, at the same table. Sasha is one of the main characters in the film that was made about the centre Compass a few years ago. Once he was detained by Andrii Stadnik and stayed under police control for some time. Now, after the client management program at Compass, Olexandr is doing much better. He even found a job as a security guard. “Now I somehow feel as Andrii’s colleague,” Sasha smiles.

“The criminal juvenile cases decreased tremendously last years, due to the approach when juvenile police is collaborating with a youth centre that offers client management. These alternative supporting ways are more constructive and more effective,” Senior Inspector of the Juvenile Prevention Department is telling us. “Previously there were 2000 cases per year, and now it is 362. The formulas of substances that circulate on the streets change so fast that young people can often not be prosecuted, but by giving youth an option and an alternative for other options, young people have less problems and also cause less problems for the society they live in.”

img_0036There are 492.000 children in the region in total. 897 families are under juvenile department control in Kharkiv region in Ukraine. The Juvenile Police checks these families, sees how they are doing, and if there are cases of child abuse, financial problems, and so on. Kharkiv Juvenile police is also inviting colleagues from other smaller cities or villages, and teaches them how to work with the Centre Compass. Through this cooperation they found out that young people from the region have difficulties with coming to the Centre since Kharkiv is too far for them. That is why now once a week a social worker of the Centre travels to the villages to counsel young people in need there.

Kharkiv City Charitable Foundation Blago has a long history of working with key populations, including people who use drugs, sex workers, men having sex with men and street children. The organisation started to work with adolescents using drugs since 2012 within the framework of “Bridging the Gaps: Health and Rights of Key Populations” project, through ICF “AIDS Foundation East-West” (AFEW-Ukraine.) Bridging the Gaps project supported the opening of the centre Compass that specifically serves vulnerable adolescents and young people, focusing on youth using drugs. The centre offers psychological counseling services, medical help, testing for HIV, hepatitis B and C. It is a daycare facility with social workers, psychologists and medical workers. The centre is providing case management services to youth using drugs, and also works with youth in prisons, and vocational schools.

Improving Outcomes for People Living with HIV

2136950249_b3e5f6a6fa_bThis is a call to action for European governments, international organisations, patient organisations, and the wider health community to align on a new HIV policy agenda that addresses the crucial unmet needs of people living with HIV (PLHIV) – to ensure they can live longer in good health, and participate fully in society and the economy.

Current HIV policy frameworks rightly focus on prevention, diagnosis and effective treatment (viral suppression), but do not go beyond this to address other health and social challenges faced by PLHIV. In Europe, where viral suppression should increasingly be the norm, it is vital that policy makers and healthcare providers recognize these challenges and respond.

An integrated approach is needed to improve:

  • Health outcomes – by addressing the increased risk that PLHIV will develop other medical problems (co-morbidities) – including mental health issues.
  • Social outcomes – in particular by combating stigma and discrimination, and ensuring that PLHIV are able to secure and retain employment and housing.

Effective action to improve outcomes, and reduce the health burden and costs associated with HIV, can bring meaningful economic benefits and reduce demands on European healthcare systems.

We call on the EU and Member States to:

1. Revisit the Dublin Declaration on Partnership to Fight HIV/AIDS, and ensure that its monitoring adopts a ‘life-long’ approach to the health and social inclusion of PLHIV.

2. Identify and agree on policy indicators necessary to monitor and assess country performance in improving health and social outcomes for PLHIV.

3. Adopt in 2017 an integrated EU Policy Framework on HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and TB – thereby extending the focus of the EU Action Plan on HIV/AIDS, which comes to an end in 2016.

Background

Whilst important progress has been made in the global response to HIV/AIDS, with the European Union (EU) playing an instrumental role, the European region – and in particular Eastern Europe – now has the fastest growing HIV epidemic globally. 29,992 people were diagnosed with HIV in the EU/EEA in 2014. At the same time, PLHIV are living longer, which has created new challenges relating to the prevention, treatment, and management of co-morbidities.

With the EU Action Plan on HIV/AIDS expiring at the end of 2016, and the Dublin Declaration on Partnership to fight HIV/AIDS now more than a decade old, European governments and the EU institutions have an opportunity to make progress on their political commitment to fighting both the transmission of HIV, as well as its health and social impacts – including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Continuing challenges include the strengthening of prevention programmes, reducing late diagnoses, ensuring equity and universality of access, and the social consequences of HIV that stem from stigma and discrimination. Governments and health systems must respond to the fact that PLHIV are living longer. We must ensure that PLHIV remain in good health as they grow older, and can lead successful, productive and rewarding lives. This aspiration should motivate the HIV response in all European countries – not only those that already perform well in relation to the UNAIDS targets for diagnosis, treatment and viral suppression.

The Beyond Viral Suppression Initiative

The Beyond Viral Suppression initiative arises out of a shared recognition among leading HIV experts that there are crucially important issues relating to the health and social inclusion of PLHIV that have to date received insufficient attention from policy makers and healthcare providers, and which must now form part of our HIV response.

In an era when ageing populations and health system sustainability are central challenges for all European countries, the initiative will also aim to inform debates about cost-effective strategies for co-morbidity prevention and management, whilst ensuring patient-centered healthcare delivery. Our recommendations should therefore be of high relevance both to policy makers and the wider health community.

The steering group is co-chaired by: Nikos Dedes, the Founder of Positive Voice (the Greek association for PLHIV) and a Board member of the European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG); Professor Jane Anderson of Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London; and Professor Jeffrey Lazarus of ISGlobal, Hospital Clínic at the University of Barcelona, and CHIP, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen. The initiative is enabled by sponsorship provided by Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare.

The initiative is developing a performance assessment of HIV services ‘beyond viral suppression’ – focusing on: access to appropriate health services; health outcomes – co-morbidity and co-infection prevention, and health-related quality of life; and social outcomes.

A research team supported by a study group of leading academics will seek to identify the policy indicators necessary to assess countries’ performance at improving health and social outcomes ‘beyond viral suppression’. Our aim is thereby to complement the work of other initiatives focusing on HIV prevention, diagnosis, and access to high quality treatment and care.

Today We Celebrate 15 Years of AFEW!

15yearsafew_logo_proposal2Dear AFEW supporters and partners!

Today is a very important day for AFEW International. We are honouring World AIDS Day 2016, and also celebrating the 15th anniversary of our organisation. We are very grateful that we have spent these wonderful 15 years with your support and appreciation, and we would like to thank you for this!

We know that 15 years of our work would be not possible without you. We understand that together with you we are working towards a healthy future of our region. We realize the potential and current issues of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and we are confident that we will be able to overcome them together with you. Thank you for being with us throughout our successes and challenges!

Having a leading position with expertise in HIV, TB and other related public health concerns in Eastern Europe and Central-Asia, AFEW will continue fighting stigma and discrimination, upholding the human rights, and improving the access to and quality of health services for key populations at risk for HIV, TB and viral hepatitis. This is still so much needed as the region where we work is still experiencing HIV growth, faces increased incidence of MDR-TB and has a high prevalence of Hepatitis C. Our activities help to change the future of the region and contribute to a healthy and comfortable life of people!

Thank you for being with us!

Happy World AIDS day and happy AFEW anniversary!

Sincerely,

AFEW International

UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern Europe & Central Asia Address

wad2016_day_hp_2_jpg1 December 2016, UNAIDS — Dear colleagues!

On the occasion of World AIDS Day, 1 December 2016, on behalf of the UNAIDS Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, I am pleased to share some important updates on the new UNAIDS global report and key events and initiatives in the HIV response in our region.

This week UNAIDS launched our new global report ‘Get on the Fast-Track: The life-cycle approach to HIV’ showing that countries are getting on the Fast-Track, with an additional one million people accessing treatment globally in just six months (January to June 2016). By June 2016, approximately 18.2 million [16.1 million–19.0 million] people living with HIV had access to the life-saving treatment, including 910 000 children – double the number five years earlier. If these efforts are sustained and increased, the world will be on track to achieve the target of 30 million people on treatment by 2020. Please see the full report here.

On 3 November 2016, Ministries of Health from 12 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia adopted the Minsk Statement on ‘HIV and Tuberculosis: Treatment for All’, calling for expanded and rapidly scaled-up access to affordable, quality-assured medicines for HIV and TB. Please see more information about the meeting and the adopted Statement here.

The Government of Ukraine has announced that in 2017 it will double funding from the national budget for HIV and TB treatment, and fully finance the national opioid substitution therapy programme for people who inject drugs – a key population in Ukraine that is at higher risk of HIV infection. Please see more information here.

The first National AIDS Conference in Kazakhstan ‘HIV: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow’ was held in Almaty on 12-13 October 2016. Over 170 representatives of government, academia, health sector and civil society groups from different regions of Kazakhstan joined the event and discussed the importance of measures to be taken to put Kazakhstan on the Fast-Track. Please see more information here.

On the occasion of the International Day of Youth, a series of activities were organized by the Youth Foundation of Armenia to raise awareness among young people about healthy lifestyles and HIV prevention. One of the main events was a concert in Yerevan on 17 November 2016, attended by over 10.000 youth. Information about HIV testing and prevention was shared through social videos, leaflets and other materials throughout the day.

In Tajikistan, the Minister of Health called for people to know their HIV status during the first ever public event on HIV prevention in Dushanbe. The event, in support of the ‘Hands up for #HIVprevention’ campaign, united more than 500 representatives of the Government of Tajikistan, health professionals, celebrities and young people. Please see more information here.

In the Russian Federation, the next phase of the national campaign ‘#StopHIVAIDS’ will be launched on 28 November in Moscow, under the leadership of Svetlana Medvedeva’s Foundation for Social and Cultural Initiatives. As part of this campaign, a series of activities will take place across Russia from 28 November to 4 December, including open lectures in schools, vocational schools and universities. The campaign will feature the Russian Minister of Health, Veronika Skvortsova, Minister of Education, Olga Vasilieva, Minister of Communications and Mass Media, Nikolai Nikiforov, the Head of Rospotrebnadzor, Anna Popova, and various non-governmental organizations. Please see more information about the campaign here.

22Please join the UNAIDS World AIDS Day Hands Up for #HIVprevention campaign. The campaign is focused on different aspects of HIV prevention, offering space for people to express their views on what they think needs to be done to strengthen HIV prevention efforts. You can upload your photo/video on the special campaign event page on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you for helping us in raising awareness and reaching wider audiences. We encourage you to join the campaign!

I would like to end this letter with a video message by Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director on the occasion of World AIDS Day 2016.

Sincerely,

Vinay P. Saldanha
UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern Europe & Central Asia

AFEW Tajikistan is Opening HIV Rapid Testing Point

qurghonteppa_2010_02HIV voluntary counselling and rapid testing point will be opened on December 1, 2016 in Qurghonteppa, Tajikistan. Testing point will be situated in the representative office of RPO AFEW Tajikistan in Khatlon region.

Official opening ceremony of the HIV voluntary counselling and rapid testing point is supported by the Administration on public health and social protection of population of the Hukumat of Khatlon region and the Regional AIDS Center. During the opening, 25 representatives of governmental, international and public organizations will learn about experience of the RPO AFEW Tajikistan in introduction of HIV voluntary counselling and rapid testing service.

The activity is conducted within the “Bridging the Gaps: Health and rights of key populations -2.0” – program funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

HIV voluntary counselling and rapid testing point is located at 9 Lokhuti Street, Qurghoonteppa, Representative office of RPO AFEW Tajikistanin Khatlon region.

 

AFEW Director is the Chair of TB/HIV Working Group

ankeAFEW executive director Anke van Dam became the chair of Wolfheze Working Group on TB/HIV collaborative activities. The group will document and promote the best models and identify research priorities of integrated TB/HIV care in the European region. Members of the group will also identify barriers in TB/HIV services and collaboration.

“I am very honoured to be part of the group,” – Anke says. – “AFEW is implementing integrated HIV/TB activities in the EECA region for quite some years now. I will bring this experience into the group, and hope to contribute to collecting best models. There is still so much to gain in improving the care and health of people living with both HIV and TB.”

Wolfheze TB/HIV Working Group started a year ago in The Hague, The Netherlands. There, Wolfheze and WHO National TB Programme Managers’ meeting participants discussed the need for strengthening TB/HIV collaborative activities in the context of the WHO End TB Strategy. They agreed to create a Working Group on TB/HIV collaborative activities taking into account specific challenges and opportunities in the WHO European region.