The 3rd regional autumn school in Bishkek

On October 29, AFEW partners came together in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, for 3 days to take part in the annual Autumn School, which is organized within the project “Bridging the Gaps: health and rights of key populations“.

The great energy of the participants and amazing nature gave a chance to everyone to enjoy the event and to discuss important issues on prevention and treatment of #HIV, harm reduction, migration, and financing in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Participants in the Autumn School included representatives of AFEW partners from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Russia, and the Netherlands, sub-recipients of the project “Bridging the Gaps”, as well as other partners and experts including those from Great Britain and the USA.

Active space

The Autumn School quickly became an active space for discussion: about strategy, barriers, innovations, and partnership opportunities between the participating organizations. During the first day, participants shared updates on the “Bridging the Gaps” project and activities in their countries – Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Tajikistan. The afternoon session was devoted to a World Café, in which partners exchanged ideas and developed specific actions to overcome challenges that they often encounter in their work.

The second day was devoted to the topic “Stimulant use and chemsex”. Benjamin Collins, director of International HIV Partnership (IHP), which partners with medical and community activists across Europe and the Middle East for successful responses to HIV and viral hepatitis, joined the Autumn School in Bishkek to share his experience on chemsex . The topic of (problematic) chemsex was further elaborated in the presentations of Monty Moncrieff, Chief Executive of London Friend, a London charity working to promote the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people, and Daria Alexeeva, program director of AFEW International. Monty spoke about the London experience in harm reduction, while Daria presented materials of Nikolay Lyuchenkov, an infectious disease doctor and expert on sexual health issues from Russia, which were focused on trends and responses to chemsex in Russia and EECA region.

 

The third and final day of the conference was devoted to workshops on migration, rehabilitation and financial sustainability. Evgeniya Alekseeva, director of Public Health and Social Development Foundation “FOCUS-MEDIA”, presented analysis of NGOs funding situation in EECA region; Elena Zhirnova, manager of the project “Our Choice: Empowering Vulnerable Women in Kyrgyzstan” (AFEW-Kyrgyzstan) told about challenges and opportunities of social entrepreneurship in the country; and Fatima Yakupbayeva, co-founder of law firm “PRECEDENT” and publisher of the book “From Grant to Business Project”, shared auditing resources for launching a business model and recommendations on how to implement business ideas.

 

The session on migration started with a presentation by Rukhshona Kurbonova, coordinator of the Migrant Health Programs at International Organization for Migration in Tajikistan. She talked about labor migration in Central Asia, while Zulaika Esentaeva (IOM Kyrgyzstan) shared their experience on service-delivery by IOM Kyrgyzstan for vulnerable migrants.

The session on rehabilitation was devoted to building information campaigns. During the session, Marina Govorukhina, specialist on strategic communications and branding, author of the books “Communications in Public Organizations”, “Strategic Communications in Public Organizations”, demonstrated specific techniques of developing informational marketing campaigns for rehabilitation centers to the participants from Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine.

Moreover, the School included a 2-day training for AFEW communication managers, during which participants focused on learning about storytelling and SMM in the context of NGOs.

 

 

Natalya Shumskaya, director of AFEW-Kyrgyzstan

I especially noted the session on new psychoactive substances. This topic is relevant for our country, as sexual ways of HIV transmission keep growing in Kyrgyzstan, and new psychoactive substance use impacts sexual behavior. For us it is a wonderful opportunity to take on the experience of those countries that have already faced similar problems, and elaborate effective strategies for preventative measures in our country.

The third day was remarkable due to the acute topic of sustainability of civil society organizations. We all see the tendency of decreasing donor support in our countries. That means that civil society should aim to ensure financial sustainability independently, and one of the opportunities is the development of social entrepreneurship. During this meeting we shared the experience of creating our own social enterprise – a beauty salon. I would like to especially point out the session by Fatima Yakupbayeva from the “Precedent” company. She gave us specific business-ideas, which could be developed by an NGO in order to earn money independently and further direct it to realization of our statutory goals.

The importance of this event is in sharing and exchange of experience. When the financial support for our organizations is not that high, it is important to avoid duplication of activities, and, on the other hand, to consolidate our efforts in order to realize our main strategic goals. For instance, the past regional meetings allowed us to bring good practices of working with youth at risk from Ukraine to our country. We are very grateful that we didn’t have to be the pioneers in this, but rather adapt and use their experience. Also, I think that the experience of Kyrgyzstan will be useful to some of our colleagues, and they will be able to apply it in their countries.

Monty Moncrieff MBE, Chief Executive of London Friend

It’s important for people working in the region on the same issues to have the opportunity to come together and share their knowledge and experience. It helps build the data on important topics, and enables participants to share what they’re seeing locally, as well as share tips on how to address new and emerging trends. It also helps build relationships, which spark ideas for new partnerships. Even though the internet gives us great opportunities to connect and work together online it’s difficult to get that richness of connection without bringing people together in person, and doing so for a number of days provides lots of opportunities for conversations outside the formal sessions.

We can always learn from one another, and hopefully by inviting people who have been working on issues for some time in other countries we can bring the benefit of that experience. We can share leaning about what’s worked and what hasn’t for us, and hopefully that can benefit people who are only starting to see these issues emerge locally.

Evgeniya Alekseeva, PHD in medical sciences, Director of Public Health and Social Development Foundation “FOCUS-MEDIA”

Meetings such as the Autumn School are important, because they bring together people from different countries and cities, create space for discussing acute issues and situations in our field, allow to form alliances, agree about partnerships, as well as have informal conversations and take a break from the daily routine.

At the Autumn School in Bishkek, I especially noted a very interesting session on chemsex, sessions on business projects for NGOs, and on migration. I will certainly use this knowledge further while writing proposals, developing new projects and creating new ideas.

Zarina Siyakova, program coordinator of the Tajik Network of Women Living with HIV

This meeting provided me with a great opportunity to learn more about what is happening in other countries in regards to promoting prevention and treatment of HIV. I especially noted the session on chemsex, as I hadn’t had a chance to encounter this issue before. I was particularly interested in the presentation by Monty Moncrieff, as well as the presentation of Nikolay Luchenkov from Russia on chemsex in EECA.

Also, I received answers to many questions on migration that I’m interested in, and most importantly, exchanged contacts with almost all the participants. It is well known that nowadays there is a very large stream of migrants from Tajikistan to Russia, and many of them lack information about services for migrants and d existing organizations in Russia. Now our organization will be able to refer our clients to these organizations, and we won’t lose them out of sight.

If you are interested in specific presentations of the Autumn School, please send your request to autumnschool@AFEW.nl.

Anke van Dam is a member of the advisory board of the European Forum for Primary Care

Anke van Dam, executive director of AFEW International has been elected as a member of the advisory board of the European Forum for Primary Care.

What is The European Forum for Primary Care?

The European Forum for Primary Care (EFPC) was initiated in early 2005 by a group of interested parties from several countries.

The basic aim of the Forum is to improve the European population’s health by promoting strong Primary Care. This is done by monitoring the state of Primary Care in the European countries, by collecting information on conditions that matter for strong Primary Care, and by exchanging experiences.

The Forum connects three groups of interested parties: the health care field, health policy makers, and the producers and evaluators of health care information. These interested parties work at three levels: the local or district level, the national level, and the supra-national level. By linking policy practice and research the Forum intends to stimulate policy making based on vision and evidence as much as it intends to support PC practice oriented towards quality and equity.

The membership of AFEW International

Anke van Dam: «The membership to the advisory board of the European Forum of Primary Care allows AFEW to learn from primary health care providers in European Countries and further the best practices to ensure equity in health and bring those to Eastern Europe and Central-Asia. What does it mean and what are the conditions when we talk about access to health services, gender and inequality per diseases? This is all discussed in the EFPC and the necessary role of primary care. AFEW International brings knowledge and vast expertise about the EECA region and a great network of contacts with organizations, institutes, agencies and professionals to the EFPC.

With the help of European Forum of Primary Car AFEW International hopes to build the bridge and to facilitate exchange, linking and learning between professionals from East and West».

 

New collaboration of AFEW International

We are happy to announce that AFEW International represented by executive director Anke Van Dam became a consultant of an international project “Optimizing HIV prevention portfolios targeting people who inject drugs using dynamic economic modeling” awarded with NIH grant.

As one of the significant contributors AFEW International will act as a liaison to the key networks, organizations, and partners in the countries in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. We will help the project team access data and the best level expertise for undertaking modeling in EECA. As well as we will provide consultations and feedback on the modeling process in the EECA region.

The overarching aim of the project “Optimizing HIV prevention portfolios targeting people who inject drugs using dynamic economic modeling” is to optimize HIV prevention strategies for people who inject drugs (PWID) in 108 countries worldwide using dynamic economic modeling based on multiple large data sources.

The project will:

1) Develop an epidemic model to estimate the impact of HIV prevention portfolios among PWID for every country with available HIV prevalence data among PWID (108 countries), based on data from multiple large systematic reviews.

2) Externally validate the model in 9 key countries with the highest numbers of HIV-positive PWID (including Russia and Ukraine)

3) Develop a user-friendly and web-based multi-platform portal for dissemination of the epidemic economic model and associated data.

The research team of the project consists of:

Natasha Martin, DPhil, Associate Professor, a leading economic infectious disease modeler (University of California);

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, Professor and a leading epidemiologist focusing on HIV among PWID with 500 publications;

Javier Cepeda, PhD, Assistant Professor, an economic modeler with expertise in cost data collection among PWID;

Peter Vickerman, DPhil, Professor, a leading modeler of HIV transmission among high-risk groups including PWID, MSM and FSWs (the University of Bristol);

Louisa Degenhardt, PhD, Professor, an epidemiologist with over a decade of experience in conducting global systematic reviews on IDU and health harms among PWID (the University of New South Wales);

Sarah Larney, PhD (the UNSW team).

 

Zero Discrimination Day 2019: Message from Anke van Dam

Stigma and discrimination are obstacles that discourage people from taking an HIV test in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Access to confidential HIV testing in the region remains a big concern. Many people only get tested after becoming ill and symptomatic. Today stigma is, unfortunately, the strongest barrier not only for testing among those who are not aware of their status but also for the treatment and care of those who live with HIV.

Stigma and discrimination are also a very big issue for people who use drugs and other key populations at risk for HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Discriminatory laws prohibit those groups to access health care and participate in the life of society.

Migrants are another vulnerable group who experiences stigma and discrimination on many levels. The situation worsens when migrants have HIV or use drugs. Then it is even harder for them to receive medical treatment.

It is especially important to talk about stigma and discrimination today while observing Zero Discrimination Day. We, at AFEW Network are supporting UNAIDS in highlighting the urgent need to take action against discriminatory laws. Working in Eastern Europe and Central Asia for almost 20 years, we are taking actions from our side as well. We are expanding the access to HIV testing by partnering with the non-governmental organisations and community-based organisations in the region and ensuring that people who use drugs, prisoners, sex workers, LGBTI, and young people have access to confidential HIV testing, and people living with HIV have access to good medical care and have great possibilities for a healthy future.

Ending discrimination and changing laws is our common responsibility, it is what we all can do. Everyone can contribute to ending discrimination and can try to make a difference. We all can break the wall of stigma and make this world better! Chase the virus, not people!

Anke van Dam: “AFEW will Continue to be the Bridge Builder”

Author: Olesya Kravchuk, AFEW International


Anke van Dam on AIDS 2018 Conference

AFEW International executive director Anke van Dam sums up the results of 2018 and gives introduction of AFEW activities for the upcoming year of 2019.

Anke, how was the year of 2018 for AFEW International?

– It has been an amazing year for us! In the first half year our team prepared very carefully and intensely for the 22nd International AIDS Conference AIDS 2018 – the biggest event in AFEW’s lifetime. It is the biggest health conference in the world and this time it was a very important event for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA). We got to successfully highlight AFEW and EECA region during the Conference. Next to this major event for us, we also had our project activities, like Bridging the Gaps project, Fast-Track TB/HIV Responses for Key Populations in EECA Cities project, Improved TB/HIV Prevention and Care – Building Models for the Future project, the project with Andrey Rylkov Foundation. We were involved in the City Health Conferences, and in the STI.HIV.Seks Dutch national congress. AFEW was also in New York to addressing the needs for diagnostics and treatment for tuberculosis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia at a side event during the United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on tuberculosis in September and during the 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health in October in the Netherlands.

Taking into consideration that AIDS 2018 Conference was so important for the region where AFEW works, what were the outcomes of this event for EECA?


Anke van Dam on AIDS 2018 Conference

– Eastern Europe and Central Asia were really in the spotlight, with so many partner organisations and colleagues we shared our successes and challenges to stop new HIV cases in the region. You could hear Russian everywhere, in the Global Village, corridors, network meetings! Herewith some figures: compared with the International AIDS Conference 2016 that took place in South Africa, the EECA representation during AIDS 2018 Conference in Amsterdam increased from 3.9% to 10.5% at all activities included in the official programme. We had 16 speakers from the EECA region, which represented 5% of all speakers, and this is a big success. Thanks to the promotion of AIDS 2018 to the EECA region and thanks to AFEW’s community based participatory research project, the number of abstracts submitted from the region were triple to the number submitted for AIDS 2016. In total, there were 627 abstracts submitted. AFEW International organized mentors’ support to the partners, and that is why the quality of the abstracts improved substantially, which increased the chance of acceptance. Thus, 187 abstracts from the EECA region were accepted which marks a six-fold increase when compared to the previous conference. In total, 604 delegates from EECA visited the AIDS2018 – an almost five times increase in comparison to AIDS 2016 and AIDS 2014.

AFEW has invited some Conference participants with Martine de Schutter Scholarship Fund that was established not long before AIDS 2018. How many EECA participants got the scholarships to come to Amsterdam?

– It was very important for AFEW to ensure that many partners and colleagues were able to come to Amsterdam to get to learn about the state of the art in HIV prevention, treatment and care, and to get in touch with other (Western) activists, scientists and clinicians, AFEW used the AIDS 2018 as another opportunity to be the bridge between East and West. The amount of scholarships that International AIDS Society (IAS) awarded to the EECA region has increased dramatically both in comparison to the previous conference, and also to the AIDS 2010 in Vienna. In total IAS has granted 149 scholarships to delegates from the EECA region, and that was 13% of all IAS scholarships. Of this amount, 62 scholarships were funded by AFEW International. We have contributed 85,000 EUR to the IAS scholarship fund. On top of that, AFEW International has disbursed directly at least 57 more scholarships to Community-based participant research project (CBPR) participants, journalist, (young) researchers, activists, and governmental official delegates supported through AFEW offices. There was an increase in participation from the Central Asia in comparison to AIDS 2010, with total increase of 18 delegates from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. That was mainly thanks to increased scholarship support to these specific countries.


Anke van Dam on AIDS 2018 Conference

What are AFEW’s plans for the year of 2019?

– There are exciting developments for 2019. During AIDS 2018 Conference we have got the grant from Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF). Within this grant, with Aidsfonds in the lead, we have established the Emergency Support Fund for Key Populations in the EECA region. We are currently accepting the applications for emergency grants from 10 countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. With these small grants we are supporting organisations representing key populations in surviving in difficult situations which they face due to legal barriers, stigma and discrimination, financial challenges and political restrictions. Besides that, we are continuing the activities within Bridging the Gaps project, Fast-Track TB/HIV Responses for Key Populations in EECA Cities project, Improved TB/HIV Prevention and Care – Building Models for the Future project, and our activities in Russia. Recently, we have got the approval to start activities in the framework of the PITCH project, which will give us opportunities to continue working with the EECA cities, and to expand our activities in Russia further. Not long ago we have got 16,000 EUR of donation to Martine de Schutter Scholarship Fund from ViiV Healthcare UK Ltd. This financing will be used as an effective tool for the EECA scientists, clinicians, community professionals and activists for bringing challenges of EECA region on international agenda and learning from their peers through participation in the international conferences. AFEW will start with EECA INTERACT, a platform for (young) researchers in the EECA region to present their studies. AFEW will continue to be the bridge builder between communities and authorities, between communities and health care providers and between East and West for a better health in the EECA region.

World AIDS Day 2018 – Message of Anke van Dam

World AIDS Day 2018: a message of AFEW International Executive Director Anke van Dam

1 December 2018

This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is encouraging people to know their HIV status. HIV testing is very much needed for expanding treatment. Treatment is so important as that makes that no HIV is detected in blood and therefore not transmissible to other people. In the region where AFEW International works – Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) – barriers to HIV testing still remain. Last year, among the 1.4 million people living with HIV in the region 73% were aware of their HIV status.

Stigma and discrimination are the obstacles that discourage people from taking an HIV test in the EECA countries. Access to confidential HIV testing in the region is still a concern. Many people only get tested after becoming ill and symptomatic. That is why we at AFEW are working on expanding the access to HIV testing. Partnering with the NGOs and CBOs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, we ensure that people who use drugs, prisoners, sex workers, LGBT and young people have access to confidential HIV testing, and people living with HIV have access to good medical care and have great possibilities for a healthy future.

This year, the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam AIDS 2018 reinforced our work. The focus on public health concerns as HIV, TB and viral hepatitis in the EECA region allowed us to present the challenges and the obstacles in policies, political and health care systems. With the relevant stakeholders in one spot, we had an excellent chance to facilitate the dialogue between communities, political leaders and donors for better access to treatment and for sustainable financial mechanisms.

We are continuing emphasizing on Eastern Europe and Central Asia and its public health concerns after AIDS 2018 Conference! AFEW addressed the needs for diagnostics and treatment for tuberculosis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia at a side event during the United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on tuberculosis in New York in September and during the 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health in October in the Netherlands. Let us continue the dialogue about the healthy future for the EECA region and let the barriers to accessing HIV testing be removed.

Red Ribbon Day kick-started the International AIDS Conference

King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima attend the Red Ribbon Concert. Source: www.koninklijkhuis.nl

Author: Olesya Kravchuk, AFEW International

Red Ribbon Day on May 16 2018, was a kick-off to a summer focused on HIV/AIDS which culminates with the International AIDS Conference AIDS 2018 in Amsterdam, July 23-27. The events that took place during the day were aimed at raising awareness of the global AIDS epidemic, bringing people together and acknowledging the progress made in combatting the problem. Red ribbon symbolizes solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS and was chosen as an appropriate symbol for this special day.

During the day, a “Youth Campaign Lab” was organized for youth volunteers to generate a youth-led campaign on HIV, AIDS, and SHRH. The event organized by Amsterdam Youth Force and Dance4Life turned out to be a huge success. Youth volunteers came up with brilliant ideas to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic. At the end of the day, the ideas were presented to the Dutch princess Mabel Wisse Smit. Princess Mabel was very impressed by the creativity of the youth participants. She also stressed the importance of involving young people in solving the issue of the AIDS epidemic.

“HIV and AIDS are a huge problem among young people around the world. Of course, no one knows better how to reach young people than the young people themselves. The positive energy of these change makers was very enjoyable to see,” said princess Mabel.

The executive director of AFEW International Anke van Dam told the Queen of the Netherlands about the situation with HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

On the evening of May 16, King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima attended the Red Ribbon Concert at AFAS Live in Amsterdam to draw attention to the persistent problem of the HIV epidemic. The concert was successful in gaining broad attention for the international AIDS response. The theme of the evening was: AIDS is not over… but it can be! It was a moment for the HIV/AIDS field and community to come together and to recognize the progress made in the fight. The concert was organized by the Dutch organizations collaborating on the AIDS2018 conference. And, it took place during the week of AIDS Memorial Day. The line-up brought together musicians and artists from across the world and from a variety of backgrounds to highlight the diversity.

At the concert, the Pop Up Aids-Expo was launched. The Royal Couple visited a pop-up expo prior to the concert to learn about the stories of people from all over the world who live with HIV. This mobile exhibition will travel through the country in the coming months. The concert and the exhibition are the preludes to the International AIDS Conference AIDS 2018 that will take place in Amsterdam this summer. The conference will bring together 20,000 people, including people living with HIV, AIDS activists, top international scientists and doctors.

AFEW International is Finding New Possibilities in Russia

Anke van Dam meeting with the representatives of the Fund for Resocialization of the Republic of Tatarstan

Author: Olesya Kravchuk, AFEW International

AFEW International continues looking for possibilities of helping key populations at risk for HIV, tuberculosis and viral hepatitis and community organisations in the Russian Federation. AFEW’s executive director Anke van Dam visited a couple of NGOs and community-based organisations during her recent visit to Moscow and Kazan.

In Kazan, Anke van Dam visited Fund for Resocialization of the Republic of Tatarstan. This fund for the first time in Russia successfully tested the model of purposeful employment of those who went through all stages of rehabilitation. For more than three years, the Fund for Resocialization offers employment to people who were using drugs, who are working on modern production of ventilation systems.

“What Daniyar, the director of the Fund for Resocialisation is doing, is amazing. He gives people with a history of drug use and sometimes of imprisonment as well, a chance to earn their own living again. With the job they regain their self-esteem, which helps them to get in touch with their family and participate actively in society again,” says Anke van Dam.

The Fund for Resocialization of the Republic of Tatarstan is engaged in the resocialization of people dependent on the psychoactive substances

The Fund for Resocialization of the Republic of Tatarstan, is engaged in the development and implementation of the state regional program for the resocialization of people who use drugs.

“It is resocialization that will allow us to establish new links with the society, to consolidate, to approve and apply the knowledge and principles obtained at the stage of rehabilitation in the social environment. We all know that for people who use or used drugs it is not easy to find jobs. They often have problems with their relatives, and some of them even do not have their own housing. Many of those who had treatment, again find themselves in the surrounding that provokes drugs use soon after they left the hospital,” states on the Fund’s website.

Building Bridges Between East and West – AFEW Releases its 2017 Annual Report

AFEW International releases its 2017 Annual Report ‘Building Bridges Between East and West.’ The report highlights AFEW Network’s key activities in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“‘Building bridges’ stands at the core of AFEW’s work. During its more than 15 years of working in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA), AFEW has aimed to connect the East and the West by introducing and sharing expertise on prevention, treatment and care for HIV, tuberculosis and viral hepatitis,” says Anke van Dam, executive director of AFEW.

AFEW Network will use AIDS 2018 with its focus on Eastern Europe and Central Asia as a springboard to address the three epidemics of HIV, viral hepatitis and TB including multi-drug resistant TB. We will renew our advocacy strategy, work with partners to ensure additional and better healthcare services for all and lead efforts to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals and other multilateral efforts result in a better future for the people of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The English version of our Annual Report is available here (download PDF.) The Russian version of the Report can be read here (download PDF.)

A Survey on Collaborative TB/HIV Activities in Countries of the WHO European Region

Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV cause significant suffering in Europe. It is estimated that 27,000 patients have both diseases. The distribution of co-infected patients is heterogeneous in Europe. Collaborative activities are needed to take the best care of those with TB/HIV co-infection. This is the background information of the survey on collaborative TB/HIV activities in countries of the WHO European Region created by the Wolfheze working group on collaborative TB/HIV activities.

The Wolfheze group documents and promotes the best models and identifies research priorities of integrated TB/HIV care in the European region. Members of the group also identify barriers in TB/HIV services and collaboration. AFEW’s executive director Anke van Dam is the chair of Wolfheze Working Group on TB/HIV collaborative activities.

What this survey adds:

• All countries have guidelines for management of TB/HIV co-infection.

• Models of care for TB/HIV co-infection differ between countries.

• Collaborative TB/HIV activities as recommended by WHO are not universally implemented.

The full version of the survey is available here.