AIDS 2018: Abstract Submission Guidelines

Scientific tracks

The 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) welcomes submission of abstracts for original contribution to the field in the following scientific tracks:

  • Track A: Basic and translational research
  • Track B: Clinical research
  • Track C: Epidemiology and prevention research
  • Track D: Social and political research, law, policy and human rights
  • Track E: Implementation research, economics, systems and synergies with other health and development sectors

Each scientific track is divided into a number of track categories. All abstract authors are asked to choose one scientific track and one track category during the submission process.

By submitting an abstract to the conference, you agree to adhere to the conference embargo policy. The policy specifies that while authors may publish the fact that their abstract has been selected for inclusion in the conference programme, data from the abstract may NOT be shared in any form (print, broadcast, or online publication, media release or conference presentation) prior to its official presentation at AIDS 2018.

Call for abstracts

We encourage work that introduces new ideas, concepts, research and deepens understanding in the field, as well as analyses of both successes and failures. Please read the following guidelines carefully before submitting your abstract:

  • Abstracts can only be submitted online via the conference profile on our website aids2018.org; submissions by fax, post or email will not be considered.
  • All abstracts must be written in English.
  • It is the author’s responsibility to submit a correct abstract. Any errors in spelling, grammar or scientific fact in the abstract text will be reproduced as typed by the author. Abstract titles will be subject to a spell check if the abstract is selected for presentation.

Late breaker abstracts

A small number of late breaker abstracts will be accepted for oral or poster presentation at the conference. Late breaker submissions must be data of unquestioned significance that meet a high threshold of scientific merit.

During submission, authors will have to justify why their abstract should be considered as a late breaker. The same submission rules apply for the late breaker abstracts as for the regular abstracts, but each presenting author may only present one late breaker abstract at the conference. The late breaker abstract submission will be open from 19 April to 10 May 2018.

The percentage of abstracts selected for late breakers will depend on the number of submissions, but selection will be far more rigorous than for regular abstracts.

Questions

  • For technical questions regarding the abstract submission system, please contact the abstract support team at abstracts@aids2018.org.
  • Questions regarding the content of the abstract should be addressed to the Abstract Mentor Programme at mentor@aids2018.org.

Policies for abstract submission

Copyright policy

Abstracts should not include libelous or defamatory content. Material presented in abstracts should not violate any copyright laws. If figures/graphics/images have been taken from sources not copyrighted by the author, it is the author’s sole responsibility to secure the rights from the copyright holder in writing to reproduce those figures/graphics/images for both worldwide print and web publication. All reproduction costs charged by the copyright holder must be borne by the author.

Resubmission policy

An abstract which has been previously published or presented at a national, regional or international meeting can only be submitted provided that there are new methods, findings, updated information or other valid reasons for submitting.

The 8th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2015), at the Vancouver Convention Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo ©Steve Forrest/Workers’ Photos/IAS

If preliminary or partial data have been published or presented previously, the submitting author will be required to provide details of the publication or presentation, along with a justification of why the abstract merits consideration for AIDS 2018. This information will be considered by the Scientific Programme Committee when making final decisions.

If the author neglects to provide these required details and justification, or if evidence of previous publication or presentation is found, the abstract will be rejected.

Plagiarism

The conference organizers regard plagiarism as serious professional misconduct. All abstracts are screened for plagiarism and when identified, the abstract and any other abstracts submitted by the same author are rejected. In addition, the submitting author’s profile and scholarship application, in the case one has been submitted, will also be canceled.

Co-submission

AIDS 2018 may negotiate co-submission of abstracts with affiliated events, pre-conferences and/or external events. Visit www.aids2018.org for updated information.

Ethical Research Declaration

The conference supports only research that has been conducted according to the protocol approved by the institutional or local committee on ethics in human investigation. Where no such committee exists, the research should have been conducted in accordance with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki of World Medical Association. The AIDS 2018 Scientific Programme Committee may enquire further into ethical aspects when evaluating the abstracts.

Conference embargo policy

As is the case with most scientific/medical conferences, abstracts from AIDS 2018 are released to delegates and media under a strict embargo policy. A detailed breakdown of the embargo policies for different types of abstracts is available here. All conference delegates, presenters and media agree to respect this policy.

Abstract submission process

Conference profile

Before submitting an abstract, authors must create a conference profile. More than one abstract can be submitted through the conference profile. After an abstract has been created, modifications can be made until the submission deadline. The final deadline to submit the abstract is 5 February 2018, 23:59 Central European Time.

Choosing a track category

The track category is the general heading under which the abstract will be reviewed and later published in the conference printed matters if accepted. The track category which best describes the subject of the abstract should be chosen. During the submission process, you will be asked to select one track category for your abstract.

Abstract structure

The conference offers two options for abstract submission:

Option 1

Suited for research conducted in all disciplines. Abstracts submitted under the first option should contain concise statements of:

  • Background: indicate the purpose and objective of the research, the hypothesis that was tested or a description of the problem being analysed or evaluated.
  • Methods: describe the study period/setting/location, study design, study population, data collection and methods of analysis used.
  • Results: present as clearly and in as much detail as possible the findings/outcomes of the study. Please summarize any specific results.
  • Conclusions: explain the significance of your findings/outcomes of the study for HIV prevention, treatment, care and/or support, and future implications of the results.

The following review criteria will be used in scoring abstracts submitted under option 1:

  • Is there a clear background and justified objective?
  • Is the methodology/study design appropriate for the objectives?
  • Are the results important and clearly presented?
  • Are the conclusions supported by the results?
  • Is the study original, and does it contribute to the field?

Option 2

Suited for lessons learned through programme, project or policy implementation or management. Abstracts submitted under the second option should contain concise statements of:

  • Background: summarize the purpose, scope and objectives, of the programme, project or policy;
  • Description: describe the programme, project or policy period/setting/location, the structure, key population (if applicable), activities and interventions undertaken in support of the programme, project or policy;
  • Lessons learned: present as clearly and in as much detail as possible the findings/outcomes of the programme, project or policy; include an analysis or evaluation of lessons learned and best practices. Please summarize any specific results that support your lessons learned and best practices;
  • Conclusions/Next steps: explain the significance of your findings/outcomes of the programme, project or policy for HIV prevention, treatment, care and/ r support, and future implications of the results.

The following review criteria will apply to abstracts submitted under option 2:

  • Is there a clear background and justified objective?
  • Is the programme, project or policy design and implementation appropriate for the objectives?
  • Are the lessons learned or best practices important, supported by the findings and clearly presented?
  • Are the conclusions/next steps supported by the results and are they feasible?
  • Is the work reported original, and does it contribute to the field?

Disaggregated sex and other demographic data in abstracts

Authors are encouraged to provide a breakdown of data by sex and other demographics such as age, geographic region, race/ethnicity, and/or other relevant demographic characteristics in submitted abstracts, when appropriate. Your abstract should include the number and percentage of men and women (and additional breakdown by gender and/or ethnicity if appropriate) that participated in your research or project, and results should be disaggregated by sex/gender and other relevant demographics. Analyses of any gender-based differences or any other differences between sub-populations should be provided in the Results or Lessons Learned sections, if relevant.

Font

A standard font, e.g. Arial, should be used when formatting the text. This helps to prevent special characters from getting lost when copying the text to the online abstract submission form. Ensure to check the final abstract with the system’s preview function before submission, and edit or replace as necessary.

Word limits

The abstract text body is limited to 350 words. Titles are limited to 30 words.

A maximum of one table and one graph/image can be included: a graph/image (in JPG, GIF or PNG with ideally 600 dpi) can be included. These will not count toward the word limit, nor will the information about authors, institutions and study groups.

Common reasons for abstract rejection:

  • Abstract poorly written.
  • Not enough new information.
  • Clear objective and/or hypothesis missing.
  • Linkage between different parts of the abstract not comprehensible.
  • Duplicate or overlap with another abstract.
  • Study/project/programme/policy too preliminary or insufficient to draw conclusions.
  • Study/project/programme/policy lack of originality.

Reasons for abstract rejection – specific to Option 1:

  • Methods (either quantitative or qualitative) inadequate and/or insufficient to support conclusions;
  • Summary of essential results inadequate and/or missing.

Reasons for abstract rejection – specific to Option 2:

  • Description inadequate and/or insufficient to support conclusions;
  • Lessons learned inadequate and/or missing.

Recommendations

  • Abstracts should disclose primary findings and avoid, whenever possible, promissory statements such as “experiments are in progress” or “results/lessons learned will be discussed”;
  • If English is not your native language, we recommend that you have your abstract reviewed by a native speaker before submission;
  • The conference offers an Abstract Mentor Programme for less experienced submitters. Please see further information below.

Submission confirmation

After submission of the abstract, a confirmation email will be sent to the abstract submitter. In order to receive confirmation, please ensure that emails from abstracts@aids2018-abstracts.org are not marked as spam by your e-mail provider.

Support programmes

Abstract Mentor Programme

The goal of the AIDS 2018 Abstract Mentor Programme is to provide an opportunity for young and/or less experienced abstract submitters to have their draft abstracts mentored by more experienced authors before submitting their abstract to the conference.

Abstracts submitted by authors that have volunteered to be a mentor in the programme will not automatically be accepted. The same applies for abstracts submitted by authors that were mentored by the programme.

For more information please visit Abstract Mentor Programme webpage.

Scholarship application process

Abstract authors interested in applying for a scholarship must complete a full scholarship application, available through your Conference Profile from 1 December 2017 to 1 February 2018.

For more information please visit Scholarship Programme webpage.

Abstract review and selection process

Abstract review

All submitted abstracts will go through a blind peer-review process carried out by an international reviewing committee. Each abstract will be reviewed by at least three reviewers.

Abstract selection

The Scientific Programme Committee makes the final selection of abstracts to be included in the conference programme. Abstracts can be selected for oral presentation in oral abstract sessions or to be presented as a poster. A small number of highest-scoring posters are selected for presentation in oral poster discussion sessions; the majority of the posters will be displayed in the Poster Exhibition.

Notification of acceptance or rejection to the corresponding author

Notification of acceptance or rejection will be sent to the submitting (corresponding) author by mid-April. Please note that only the corresponding author will receive an email concerning the abstract and is responsible for informing all co-authors of the status of the abstract. Authors whose abstracts have been accepted will receive instructions for the presentation of their abstract.

Rule of two

Each presenting author may present a maximum of two abstracts at the conference. The number of submissions is, however, not limited. Should an author have more than two abstracts accepted for presentation, a co-author must be named as presenting author for one or more abstracts.

In addition, each presenting author may also present one late breaker abstract at the conference.

Publication of accepted abstracts

The submission of the abstracts constitutes the authors’ consent to publication. If the abstract is accepted, the authors agree that their abstracts are published under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license. The license allows third parties to share the published work (copy, distribute, transmit) and to adapt it for any purposes, under the condition that AIDS 2018 and authors are given credit, and that in the event of reuse or distribution, the terms of this license are made clear. Authors retain the copyright of their abstracts, with first publication rights granted to the IAS.

Accepted abstracts may, therefore, be published on IAS websites and publications, such as the AIDS 2018 Online Conference Programme and other conference materials, the IAS abstract archive, the Journal of the International AIDS Society (JIAS), etc.

Source: AIDS 2018

The Digital Consultation from the Amsterdam Youth Force

Dutch Ambassador for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights & HIV/AIDS Lambert Grijns

We are glad to announce the digital consultation the Amsterdam Youth Force (AYF) is organising in the run up to 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018.) AIDS 2018 will be an important event in the road to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Therefore, it is crucial that young people’s perspectives are heard in the lead up to the conference, which is why we a consultation to help produce position papers reflecting young people’s voices is being launched.

The consultation will build on the work the #UPROOT agenda documented by PACT, and Amsterdam Youth Force is currently investigating the best ways to do that. In the meantime, AYF is looking for volunteers to help with the project. They are specifically looking for:

  • Young people who speak both English and Russian, French, Arabic, Spanish or Chinese.
  • People who want to help manage and translate input in those languages and help write the papers.
  • People who are available for that from January until July 2018.

If you are interested in helping out, please let AYF know via advocacy.ayf@gmail.com. Then they will contact you to see how you can help.

People Living with HIV Can Live Longer

Brussels, 29 November 2017 – Experts unveiled a set of recommendations to address health problems facing people living with HIV. Treatments are helping people with HIV live long lives, but they face higher risk than others of serious illnesses – from cancer to heart disease to depression.

As people living with HIV require access to a range of health services beyond just their HIV treatment, a coordinated and personalised approach to long-term HIV care is needed, according to the HIV Outcome recommendations, which were unveiled at an event at the European Parliament.

“There is huge room for improvement” said Nikos Dedes, Chair of the European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG) and Co-Chair of the HIV Outcomes Steering Group. “It is great that people living with HIV can live nearly as long as anyone else these days because of new treatments, but there are complicated health problems that are being ignored. The HIV Outcomes initiative has put together a list of suggestions that has the potential to improve the lives of Europeans who live with HIV.”

In a timely reminder ahead of World AIDS Day on Friday, 1 December, the HIV Outcomes initiative highlights that the advent of modern antiretroviral therapies (ART) has transformed the lives of people living with HIV. For those diagnosed and treated early, it is now a chronic, rather than a fatal, condition. However, this is no guarantee of good health outcomes or quality of life; further effort is needed to develop effective, lifelong approaches to the long-term treatment and care of people living with HIV.

To address these needs, the HIV Outcomes initiative has engaged in a year-long multi-stakeholder process to develop a series of five detailed policy recommendations. These call for an integrated and patient-centred approach to long-term HIV care, which should include services for the prevention, treatment and management of other health conditions (comorbidities), services for mental health conditions, personalised care plans, and advice and support on sexual and reproductive health. Other recommendations call for monitoring of how health systems currently respond to the long-term health challenges faced by people living with HIV as well as efforts to combat stigma and discrimination within health systems.

Recommendations

  1. Adopt an integrated, outcomes-focused, and patient-centred approach to long-term care.

  2. Expand national monitoring of long-term care and outcomes.

  3. Fund studies to provide information on the long-term health of people living with HIV.

  4. Combat stigma and discrimination within health systems.

  5. Upscale involvement of the HIV community in priority setting at country level.

The next step is to ‘road test’ the recommendations at national level in two countries – Italy and Sweden – during 2018. Both have already demonstrated their commitment to people living with HIV; Italy has published a ‘White Book’ on the chronic care model for HIV, while Sweden is the first country to achieve the UNAIDs ‘90-90-90’ targets.The three Member of the European Parliament (MEPs) supporting the event meeting, Christofer Fjellner (European People’s Party, EPP), Eva Kaili (Socialists and Democrats, S&D) and Gesine Meissner (Alliance for Liberals and Democrats in Europe, ALDE), agreed, “Having addressed the issue of longevity, society now needs to help people with HIV to retain good health and lead rewarding lives. As representatives of the European Parliament’s leading political groups, we fully support the aims of this initiative.

The learnings and best practice generated on a national level will ultimately be reported at a future event in the European Parliament in 2018 and should provide further refinements to efforts to improve the long-term health outcomes and quality of life of people living with HIV. It is time to expand our ambitions for the health and well-being of people living with HIV beyond just viral suppression.

Tuberculosis is Finally Getting on the Agenda of the Heads of State

22 November 2017, Geneva, Switzerland – Last week, 75 ministers agreed to take urgent action to end TB by 2030 at the conclusion of the WHO Global Ministerial Conference on ‘Ending TB in the Sustainable Development Era: A Multisectoral Response’ in Moscow, Russia. President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation gave the keynote speech on the first day of the Conference on 16 November. The first high-level plenary started with the welcome address of Amina J Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary. The Conference was opened by Veronika Skvortsova, Minister of Health, Russian Federation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, Zsuzanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health of South Africa and Chair of the Stop TB Partnership, and Timpiyan Leseni, TB survivor from Kenya. The meeting was attended by ministers and country delegations, as well as representatives of civil society and international organizations, scientists, and researchers. More than 1000 participants took part in the two-day conference which resulted in collective commitment to ramp up action to end TB.

“In order to achieve a radical change in the fight against this disease, new approaches are needed, both at the national and international level, as well as the joint work of governmental agencies, public and professional organizations. Only coordinated and consistent actions will help us achieve a final victory over TB. We expect these steps to be supported at the highest level – by the General Assembly of the United Nations, whose meeting next year will focus on the problems of TB,” said the President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

“The UN HLM on TB is the moment we have all been waiting for, and we will we seize the moment. No more calls for action, we need commitment. Together I know we can do it, it will not be easy but we must believe it is possible. This house is full, the attendance of so many ministers shows the commitment but we need to prepare for real commitment,” said Dr Tedros, WHO Director-General.

Speaking at the opening of the Global Ministerial Conference on TB, Minister of Health of South Africa and Chair of Stop TB Partnership, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi emphasized the need to elevate the discussions and engagement to end TB at the level of heads of state and government and UN leaders. “Tuberculosis kills more than 4500 people every day and it is time to be seriously addressed with the support and engagement of the heads of governments. We need to ensure that going towards the UNHLM in New York in September 2018, we have a very strong participation, a very strong Political Declaration and a very strong accountability framework.  If we want this, we need  to have good quality data on TB and for it to be user friendly that heads of state, ministers of finance and even ministers of health can rapidly see the status of their epidemic and targets,” said Dr Motsoaledi.

On this occasion, the Minister launched the Stop TB Partnership interactive country dashboards site that presents country-based TB essential information in a manner that is simple and user friendly in easy-to-use graphs – including TB burden, TB care and service delivery, finances and selected determinants/comorbidity.

No new data is collected, rather that data is derived from the Global Fund, Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, the Stop TB Partnership, WHO and the World Bank – as indicated in the dashboards.*

Petition signed by more than 35,000 people from 120 countries presented to  Dr. Tedros, head of WHO and Ministers of Health.

In Moscow, the Stop TB Partnership and MSF released the report ‘Out of Step in Eastern Europe and Central Asia’ (EECA), presenting the results of an eight-country survey of national TB policies and practices. Among the countries surveyed, 75% have adopted the policy to use rapid molecular testing instead of older, slower testing methods, yet only half of those countries are actually using the test widely.

“In TB, we fight not only with mycobacterium tuberculosis, but also with the time. When we look at policies and guidelines and if country programmes need to update them, this is not an easy task, and it will take a lot of time to make it happen. If you add the time to have it approved and start the roll out, we are speaking here of years, not months. This is why it is important to keep up with the new recommendations and be able to adjust and adapt to the country context rapidly,” said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership.

At the Global Ministerial Conference, Mariam Avanesova, who was treated for MDR-TB in Armenia in 2010-2012 and represents TBpeople, the Eurasian network of people with TB experience, handed over a petition to WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus. The #StepUpforTB petition is an urgent call for health ministers in key TB-affected countries to get their TB policies and practices in line with international standards, as defined by WHO, including testing and treatment of TB and its drug-resistant forms. Initiated by MSF and the Stop TB Partnership, the petition has been signed by more than 35,000 people from 120 countries united with people affected by TB.

Source: Stop TB Partnership

HIV/AIDS Surveillance in Europe 2017-2016 Data Released

On 1st of December, we mark World AIDS Day (WAD) to raise awareness about HIV and its impact on individuals and societies around the globe. WAD 2017 in the WHO European Region will focus on the problem of late HIV diagnosis – the high number of people who are diagnosed with HIV at a late stage of infection with consequences for individuals’ health and survival, and for the community where HIV can transmit further.

With this message, we invite you to join us and mark the World Aids Day 2017 in your country.

On 28 November 2017, WHO/Europe and ECDC jointly released the annual report on HIV/AIDS surveillance Europe, containing the latest available surveillance data.

Similar to recent years, the highest proportion of HIV diagnoses (40%) was reported to be in men who have sex with men (MSM). However, for the first time in a number of years, several countries reported a decline in new HIV diagnoses, even after adjusting for reporting delay.

While the data in this year’s report indicate alarming rates and increases in new diagnoses in some parts of eastern and central Europe over the last decade, at the same time there has been a tendency towards stabilising or even decreasing rates in some EU/EEA countries.

Trends by transmission mode, for example, show that the number of HIV diagnoses among MSM in the EU/EEA decreased slightly in 2016 and the number of heterosexually acquired cases has decreased steadily over the last decade.

Moreover, in the EU/EEA, the number of AIDS cases, and the number of AIDS-related deaths, has consistently declined since the mid-1990s.

The report on HIV/AIDS surveillance in Europe 2017 – 2016 data is available here.

Civil Society Letter to Support the Position of Prof M. Kazatchkine as UN special Envoy on HIV/AIDS for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

To the United Nations Secretary-General Mr Antonio Guterres

Amsterdam, 30 November 2017

Re: Civil Society letter to support the position of Prof M. Kazatchkine as UN special envoy on HIV/AIDS for Eastern Europe and Central Asia dd 23 June 2017

Your excellency Mr Guterres,

With this letter, we – undersigned civil society organizations – call on you to reinstate the position of Prof. Michel Kazatchkine as your Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA).

In 2018, the International AIDS Conference will take place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The largest health conference in the world will have a special focus on Eastern-Europe and Central Asia, a region in which the HIV/AIDS, TB and viral hepatitis epidemics are out of control. This development concerns us deeply:

• The annual number of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia increased with 60% between 2010 and 2016;
• From all regions in the world, the EECA region is furthest away from reaching the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020. Treatment coverage remains alarmingly low (28%), and less than a quarter of people living with HIV had suppressed viral loads (end-2016);
• Specific populations, such as men who have sex with men, drug users and sex workers face specific human rights violations, impeding their access to prevention and health services.

Despite these alarming developments, donors and multilateral institutions are pulling out of the region. Achieving the SDGs on health and the promise to leave no one behind is therefore still far away in the EECA region.

Prof. Michel Kazatchkine has played a key role in highlighting the region to institutions as UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. He played a crucial role in mobilizing local authorities, (inter)national civil society, donors, researchers and other relevant groups to come to better outcomes to the UNAIDS indicators as we see now. As a result, he enjoys great support from communities in the region.

In our letter of 23 June 2017, we asked to continue the position of Prof. Michel Kazatchkine as your Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. We express our disappointment about not having received a response yet. At the same time, we understand that Mr Eric Goosby continues as UN special envoy on TB, due to the important UN High Level meeting on TB in September 2018.

The AIDS 2018 conference in July 2018 will be a key moment for the region and for the world as well. The Dutch government acknowledges the issues and has prioritized the region for the conference. We applaud their leadership as this is the moment to bring political leaders, policy makers, scientists, clinicians and community leaders together and draw attention to the urgent need to next steps.

We strongly urge you to reinstate the position of Prof. Michel Kazatchkine as your Special Envoy for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, or at the very least use your influence to ensure that Prof Kazatchkine may continue his work at UN level, as he is in an excellent position next year to create a momentum to raise awareness on the disruptive situation the epidemics has caused in the region.

Yours sincerely,

Anke van Dam,
AFEW International

Please, support this letter by signing it before 30 November 2017 5pm CeT. You can sign this letter here

The First AFEW Regional Autumn School Was Conducted in Kazakhstan

Author: Marina Maximova, Kazakhstan

Representatives of 10 countries took part in the first regional autumn school organized by AFEW, which was held from 30 October to 5 November in the Oy-Karagay gorge, not far from Almaty, Kazakhstan. The school was conducted with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

High mountains, hot sun, picturesque autumn landscapes, atmosphere of the national yurt instead of the traditional training hall – combined with the team spirit and expectations of positive changes – contributed to the creative atmosphere of the event. The school participants included representatives of the AFEW network from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Netherlands, Tajikistan, Ukraine, sub-grantees of the project ‘Bridging the Gaps: Health and Rights for Key Populations,’ and partner organizations. Such allies and friends are the biggest guarantee of success.

Learning to bridge the gaps

“The autumn school helps to find the answers to a range of questions and get acquainted with the new innovative practices in working with key populations,” says Dilshod Pulatov, Project Manager, ‘Bridging the Gaps’ programme, AFEW-Tajikistan.

He presented the results of the social study to assess the level of labour migration among people who use drugs. It was conducted for 18 months in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The study, which covered 600 respondents, demonstrated regional trends and showed interesting results. The main of them is that the labour migrants who use drugs do not know where they can get help and who can offer such help. In both countries, the respondents pointed out that as labour migrants they experienced problems with access to health and social services.

The results of this research study will help AFEW to scale up the access of drug users to quality HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services and find new partners. Partnerships were created right at the discussion platform. This study proved to be interesting not only to the participants, but also to the guests invited to take part in the autumn school, including representatives of the Project HOPE in Kazakhstan.

Platform for discussion and activism

Today, ‘Bridging the Gaps’ programme is implemented by the organizations from four countries of the region. The autumn school became a platform to discuss strategies, barriers, innovations, and opportunities for cooperation.

“In our country, the biggest gap is an access of underage people who use drugs (PUD) to services. Many services are offered to adult PUD, in particular with support of the international donors. It allows them getting qualified help. At the same time, people often forget that the first experience of drug use happens under the age of 18,” tells Anastasia Shebardina, Project Manager, AFEW-Ukraine.

The project made an important contribution for radically changing the situation: it opened the only rehab centre for drug dependent adolescents in Chernivtsi and supported four civil society organizations.

In each country, there are success stories, which became possible thanks to the project implementation. So far, these are just tiny steps forward in the big scope of the existing problems. Every such step became possible thanks to project staff and activists working hard for a long time, but such victories, even if they are small, enhance personal motivation of people and allow them to set bigger goals.

“One of our achievements is developing the standards of services for PUD serving sentences in the Georgian prisons. We educate prison staff and have drafted a special training module for this purpose. In some organizations, support groups for PUD are already functioning. Rehab centre Help has opened its doors to clients. Now 12 people can stay there and get qualified help. We plan to cover all correctional facilities in the country with our activities,” shares his plans Vazha Kasrelishvili, Project Coordinator of the NGO Tanadgoma.

From knowledge sharing to new rehabilitation models

Sharing knowledge and best practices is one of the goals of the autumn school. Together, it is easier to elaborate strategies and innovative approaches, considering that the tendencies in development of the situation in the region are similar. Today, the search to fund vital projects also requires joint efforts, taking into account the reduction of the funding received from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other donors in the region. So far, national governments are not ready to take over this financial burden in full scope. Despite their broad fundraising efforts, civil society organizations do not have enough grant funds aimed at scaling up access to services for key populations.

“With the support of the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic, within our project we developed two clinical guidelines: on managing pregnancy, delivery and postnatal period of female PUD and on mental health and behaviour disorders in children and adolescents caused by the use of new psychoactive substances. We were able to open a social office for women with HIV, which offers counselling of psychologists and peer consultants. In the country, there are two rehab centres for women with HIV and drug dependence, which cooperate with friendly clinics,” tells Natalya Shumskaya, the head of the AIDS Foundation East-West in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Today, there is a need to use new, more effective rehabilitation models. This idea has been supported by all participants of the autumn school. Such models should be aimed at developing inner strength – empowerment – of each of the members of key populations.

“Maybe now it is time to change and expand our understanding of the rehabilitation concept. It is not only detox and psychology. There should be equal opportunities, in particular based on harm reduction, to accept yourself,” points out Anna Sarang, President of Andrey Rylkov Foundation, Russia.

Preparations to AIDS 2018

Participants of the autumn school also discussed preparations to the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands – the main event of the next year for activists of the AIDS organizations. All countries of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia are already actively preparing for the conference. How can decision makers be involved into this crucial event? What channels are most effective in communicating information about the conference? How to make this event significant? Every day, participants of the autumn school discussed these and other questions. Besides, they learned how to write abstracts for the conference and choose catchy titles for them.

It is very important that the participants developed some new ideas, concepts and thoughts, because starting from 1 December 2017 registration for AIDS 2018 will be open. It will be a new and diverse platform for discussions making decisions significant for all countries and communities.

HIV Test: the Work of Mobile Clinic in Kyiv

Tatiana shows a card of the recipient of services from Eney

Author: Yana Kazmyrenko, Ukraine

We have spent one day with the mobile clinic in Kyiv, Ukraine, that provides HIV testing for people who inject drugs. The social worker Tatiana quit using drugs and has now been diagnosing five HIV cases monthly.

Tatiana Martynyuk (54 years old) visits up to 10 apartments every day, and at least five of her clients each month turn out to be HIV positive. She works at a mobile clinic of the Eney Club in Kyiv, where she anonymously detects HIV and hepatitis C. The project has been supported by ICF Public Health Alliance for more than ten years. There are five mobile teams from the organization in Kyiv and one team always works night shifts in order to cover the sex workers’ testing.

Eney has a large base of volunteers. These people actively use drugs. They offer their friends and acquaintances to pass HIV testing which only takes 15 minutes. If the test is positive, they persuade a person to go to the City AIDS Centre and register there. Not everybody agrees, half of them reject saying that nothing is hurting, and they will not go anywhere.

We have the meeting on Shevchenko Square, the northern outskirts of Kyiv. Our first clients live not so far away. Tatiana brings them HIV tests, alcohol wipes and condoms.

Boiling shirka

Irina shows a drop of blood during testing

Sergey and Irina are meeting us in their one bedroom apartment, where everything is filled up with their belongings. The owners have been planning to renew the closet for several years already, but they have no money and energy for that. Irina, 43 years old, takes the test first. She is already receiving services from Eney.

“I tried drugs two years ago and I liked it,” she is saying, hiding her cracked hands. Ira has been working as a dishwasher, but currently she has no income as the restaurant is being closed.

The woman is getting nervous and takes a cigarette from Tania. The social worker asks Ira to do the test on her own so that she can do the test without any help in case of emergency. A drop of blood, four drops of the special liquid, and a long ten-minute waiting during which Tatiana has the time to ask what Ira knows about HIV.

“The most important thing: HIV can be in shirka (the popular name for one of the most commonly injected opiate derivates,) where a syringe was put for just a second. If in doubt – boil shirka,” Tatiana is instructing, asking other people to leave the kitchen. The HIV test result is strictly confidential.

Ira is satisfied with the test results, and she is going to wash the dishes. The 33-year-old Sergey is sitting at the table. It was he who “tricked” his female partner into trying drugs. He has been using drugs for 10 years.

Our client is not interested in getting the information about HIV: he is arguing, and saying that you can get HIV while visiting a dentist. Tatiana changes the subject and asks him to invite his friends for the check. Initially, three more people were willing to take the test, but at the end, only 28-year-old Artem came in. He has a rich biography, which includes a 10-year record of drug usage and imprisonment.

“If I want – I will take the drug. If I decide to quit it – I will quit it. I am not in the system. I earn 18,000 hryvnia (about 600 euros) on repairs and construction sites. I can do everything,” he boasts while lighting up a cigarette.

Receiving assistance from their peers

Vladimir’s wife, Inna, waiting for test results

While we are driving, Tatyana keeps telling her story: she has been injecting drugs for 25 years, and then she quit. She was tired and wanted to change her life. Her husband died, her son was drinking alcohol, and her mother is sick. At first, she found work as a street sweeper, but then she settled in Eney Club.

“I get more tired at this job than when I was sweeping the streets. Everyone needs to talk and to be heard, I need to organize things. I am not judging anyone. These people will only accept a help from a person like they are,” she shares.

It seems that with each visit to the next apartment, Tatiana challenges her willpower. She could possibly get her dose of drugs in any such place. Nevertheless, she is holding on. In her situation, one needs to have a special talent in order not to lose the spirit and to do the work with all your heart.

Needle veteran

Vladimir is having a holiday in his apartment in Obolonsky Lipky, the elite district in Kyiv. His prison sentence for the distribution and transportation of drugs has been changed into the conditional one. This was the fourth prison sentence for the 54-year old Kyiv citizen.

Tatiana helps Vladimir with a test

“I have been injecting drugs for 35 years now. I wonder how I survived. Everybody with who I started, is already dead. I prepare everything myself as I know all the recipes. I have studied the 1938 medical military handbook,” Vladimir is saying.

“Vova, you are such a fine fellow,” admires Tanya. The toothless Vova smiles and invites us to see his bathroom, where he has recently changed the tiles.

Vladimir takes the test and tells that he is going to get tooth implants and will start taking care of his health.

“I would not survive without drugs. I got all possible strains of hepatitis and in this way, I keep myself in shape,” he explains.

Vladimir’s elder brother is 59. He has been trying to quit drugs after a stroke. He smells of alcohol – he has been drinking vodka.

“That is how life used to be. In the 90s you would make a whole basin of shirka and you treat the whole district, but times changed and shirka is not the same anymore. We had loads of heroin,” he recalls with nostalgia.

The wives of the two brothers, Inna and Irina, also use drugs. During the test, Inna tells Tatiana to hurry up. She did not have time for injecting the dose, and now she cannot wait to get it.

Improving personal life

“Can you imagine this? I woke up in the morning and noticed that I lost my tooth and ate it in my sleep,” Marta is saying. She works as a hairdresser and has colorful hair.

Marta has been using drugs since she was 12. She says that drugs in Kyiv in the 80s were an element of prestige like a cherry VAZ 2109 (car model.) There was a seven-year break in her history. She started using drugs all over again when she had found out that her first love was HIV positive.

“He died, and I went crazy. In general, I cannot live without injecting. It is an addiction,” she explains.

Marta tries to take the test once a year, and she is going to improve her personal life.

“Tania, please, give me more condoms. My friends have been searching for a fiancée for me. I imagine him taking drugs, but not being a goner; I want him to have an apartment, as I would like to give birth to a child,” she continues.

Tania asks Marta to take her friend for the testing next time. A woman with a dark hair bandage is nervously waiting for her friend. She has recently become a widow, her husband died because of an overdose.

The social base of drug users is expanding

After the test, Tatyana immediately agrees to meet with the next client

After three visits, the social worker is tired, but there are still some addresses from the other side of the city.

“Our program helps them to be safe and control their health. I would also like to add some food arrangements – some of them do not have any food for weeks,” Tania is saying.

The harm reduction program among people who inject drugs in Eney Club started in 2001. The annual coverage was more than 6000 people in 2016. Out of these number, 80% of people have been tested for HIV. Now, the average level of HIV detection among clients is 3.5%, where 80% of people have been placed on dispensary records. The level of drug usage has been growing in Kyiv. There appeared separate subgroups among the people who use drugs. Veterans of the Donbas conflict and immigrants from the Eastern Ukraine form such subgroups.

AIDS 2018: Preparing for Registration and Submitting Abstracts

Author: Anna Tokar, Ukraine

The registration for the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) will symbolically start on December 1 – the World AIDS Day. The conference will gather scientists, political leaders, and people living with HIV from all around the world. One of the key 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.

You can already start preparing for the registration for the Conference. Below you can find some important tips:

  • You will be asked to create your personal account – a webpage at the conference website – where you will need to put your key personal information (name, date of birth, education, etc.) Through this account you will submit your thesis or register for the Conference.
  • Registration can be individual or group (only applicable to the registration of five people or more.) The company or organization requesting a group registration must nominate one group representative who will administer the group communication with the Conference committee.
  • Usually, when applying for a scholarship, one should submit a cover letter with clear reasoning of why this scholarship is needed. Your personal details and passport data will be requested.

Scientific tracks

AIDS 2018 Conference will welcome submission of abstracts for original contribution to the field in the following scientific tracks:

Track A: Basic and Translational Research.

Track B: Clinical Research.

Track C: Epidemiology and Prevention Research.

Track D: Social and Political Research, Law, Policy and Human Rights.

Track E: Implementation Research, Economics, Systems and Synergies with other Health and Development Sectors.

Tips for writing a strong abstract

Even though there are no abstract guidelines yet available, you may consider developing a draft anyhow.

Language and grammar

The official language of the conference is English. Thus, all abstracts should be developed and presented only in the English language. The abstracts that are written well have higher chances to be selected by the Conference committee, regardless of their content. Grammar mistakes and typos will distract the reviewers from the actual study content. The reviewers might also wonder if the author is able to communicate study findings in the English language at all. For a non-native speaker, it might be quite difficult to spot all the mistakes or weird phrases. That is why we highly recommend asking for some assistance, for example from your English-speaking colleagues or friends. We also suggest to use the examples of previous conference abstracts and peer reviewed scientific papers. Studying them will help you to understand how to be succinct and informative at the same time. Besides, you might be able to see some useful linguistic construction and techniques.

Brevity is the soul of wit

The abstract should be short, yet informative. That is why you would need to have sufficient time to “pack” all the information into 300 words. If you plan to write an abstract in the last moment, you would not have time to think it through, and thus, most probably you would start “cutting.” As a result, you can end up with the text full of abbreviations, with one line of introduction and super reduced methods section, which will look like a broken puzzle.  Good abstract should be well-balanced, and all its sections should be connected and should smoothly tell the story to your reader. The reviewers would not appreciate any quizzes in your abstract, they would not guess what you mean or what you intend to say. Therefore, the text should be easy to follow, it should be reader-friendly and logically built. In other case, the reviewers might decide that the information provided in the abstract is not enough and simply reject your abstract.

Results will come later

The common problem of many people is to write the abstract without having data or analysis done. It is better not to write an abstract at all, if there are no results available. You also might consider using some previous data. Just try to have some new research questions in your abstract, or try to use a new analytical approach.

Prioritizing the key message

The abstract should be written in such a way, that a key message can be easily grasped. This key idea should be stated in the introduction as the study goal. It should also be presented in the methods, proved by the results, and finally, it should “crystalize” in the conclusion. Think it over for this type of task requires slow thinking and digesting.

Abbreviations and professional terms

Even though the reviewers should be familiar with commonly used abbreviations and professional terms, it is seen as a bad manner to use these concepts without full spelling or clear description. Therefore, when using abbreviation and professional terms, try to follow the norms of scientific writing. Firstly, all abbreviation should be spelled out, when used for the first time in the text. Secondly, the professional language should be avoided or used upon clear definition. Besides, no discriminating or stigmatizing language is acceptable.

Conclusion

If in the Post-Soviet countries, the phrases like “we recommend conducting an additional study” or “more research is needed” are well-accepted, in the Western world such phrases can be perceived as a bad tone, since there is no such field of science where no additional research is needed. Yet, using the precious words for providing these kind of statements is a waste, especially when talking about the conference abstracts. In the conclusion of the abstract, the reviewer is waiting for your final word, the answer to your research question, not for an empty phrase. Another typical mistake is to make ambitious loud claims which are not supported by the results, for instance, that the sample size was not representative, but the conclusions are made based on the whole country population. The best advice is to support the conclusions by data, not by the ambitions of the author. One should also remember that conclusion is like saying goodbye to your readers. Therefore, you should think about leaving them with the feeling of the firm handshake and with a polite smile on your face. This is what you reader will remember.

Fifteen Years of HIV Prevention in Kyrgyz Prisons

A convict takes methadone therapy in a correctional colony

Author: Olga Ochneva, Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a leading country in the Central Asia in terms of implementation of harm reduction and HIV prevention programs in the correctional settings. Syringe exchange programs have been available in prisons since 2002, and today over one thousand five hundred people receive clean injecting equipment in all twelve correctional facilities. Atlantis rehab centers have been gradually introduced since 2004 for those convicts who made a decision to quit drugs. Currently, eight such centers are functioning, with the ones who have almost succeeded in stopping with drugs continuing treatment in a separate, so-called “clean compound.” In ten institutions, including two pre-trial detention centers and one penal settlement, people have access to the methadone substitution therapy. Besides, governmental agencies, together with donors and civil society organizations, conduct awareness-raising activities, diagnostics and treatment of HIV infection, tuberculosis, and provide social support for ex-prisoners. Such programs have been implemented for 15 years, and local experts share their best practices.

Correctional settings form adherence

Roman had been enrolled into the opioid substitution treatment (OST) program before he got into prison, but he was still using heroin. Due to drugs related crime, he had to go to jail, where at first his HIV test showed a negative result. However, in a while, the virus has shown itself. Now Roman is free. He works in the Ranar Charitable Foundation offering people released from prisons the same kind of support that he got back when he walked out of the jail: accompanies them to the sites providing OST services, antiretroviral therapy (ART), makes contact with the law enforcement agencies, and provides support with employment seeking and accommodation as well as with the restoration of personal documents, if needed.

“For three years in prison, I was sharing needles with everyone and had no idea that I had HIV till I developed tuberculosis and pleuritis,” Roman says. “When I was in prison, I did not even think about what I was going to do after the release. I thought I was just living out my days. When I got out, my state was really bad: I was taking high doses of methadone and was not taking any ARV drugs. Then my friends showed me some sober guys, whom I knew back in prison. Before that, I could not even imagine that one can quit methadone.”

Today, convicts with HIV amount to 5% of all the people living with HIV (PLWH) in the country, whereas in 2010 this share was 13.7. There has been access to ART in the correctional settings since 2005; and currently, 305 out of 357 officially registered PLWH serving their sentences receive the treatment.

In prison, Roman received ARV drugs but did not take them. He admitted that he took the pills only because they were given together with motivational food packages distributed in Kyrgyzstan to develop an adherence to treatment. Next year, those who receive the treatment for over one year will no longer be getting such packages because their adherence has already been formed.

“In correctional settings, there is a favorable environment where an outstanding program to form adherence may be implemented as the patients are always in plain sight,” Natalia Shumskaya, AFEW Chairperson in the Kyrgyz Republic says. “The quality of treatment and care of people living with HIV, unfortunately, leaves much to be desired. There is a deficit of qualified health professionals and a lack of proper attention to the patient. It is important to make sure that the officers of the department for the execution of sentences see additional benefits for this work. Currently, donor organizations provide funding for additional support, but starting from next year there will be no funds to cover those needs. In this context, it is rather difficult to ensure quality performance of all the guidelines on implementation of the programs aimed at harm reduction, HIV prevention, diagnostics, and treatment, which have been developed over the years.”

How it works “from the inside”

Atlantis: rehabilitation of drug users in correctional institutions

On the average, in penal colonies 85 prisoners attempt to overcome their drug dependence in the Atlantis rehab centers every year. About half of them successfully complete the program and are transferred to the Rehabilitation and Social Adaptation Center (RSAC) or the “clean compound” in the colony No. 31. In this compound, the convicts who decided to quit drugs get additional professional training and are prepared for the release.

OST in closed settings was introduced in 2008, and today such treatment is provided to 479 patients. According to ex-convicts, the methadone substitution treatment program in the places of confinement has been to a great extent discredited by the patients who take additional illegal substances. Access to services varies depending on the type of institution.

“When I found myself in a pre-trial detention center, I got no access to methadone,” tells Roman. “It was not available there, and local staff members only organize transportation to the OST sites if there are at least 4-5 people who take part in the OST program. To get ART, it was also necessary to go outside of the center territory. Sometimes, people have to wait for a court decision for several years there and for all this period of time they may have no access to medications. In a prison, once a day they take you to a sanitary unit, where you get your methadone. There are also ARVs and clean syringes available. You must always give back the used equipment, but if there is a search in the ward, the guards take away all the syringes and needles. In colonies, it is much easier to get all those services.”

The “Kyrgyz miracle”

Madina Tokombayeva, whose Association “Harm Reduction Network” (AHRN) has been providing support to convicts for fifteen years, says that the existence of such programs in the country may already be called a miracle.

HIV prevention training for staff of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences

“We started our activities in correctional settings with self-help groups for PLWH back in 2002 through the first community organization of people who use drugs uniting PLWH and ex-convicts,” tells Madina. “We saw that after the release people need support, so at our own initiative we started helping them after they got out. We were speaking about all the problems existing in prisons, and thus we found people and donors who were ready to support our ideas. At that time, AFEW Kyrgyzstan supported the establishment of the first social bureau in colony No. 47, activities of the Ranar Charitable Foundation aimed at ex-convicts and helped to purchase a house for them, which is still functioning with the support of AFEW Kyrgyzstan. Later, the CARHAP project disseminated social bureaus and support services in all the correctional facilities.”

Currently, harm reduction programs in prisons are financed by the Global Fund and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). AFEW Kyrgyzstan strives to build the capacity of staff members of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences and, together with the AHRN, provides HIV prevention and social support services to ex-convicts with the support of the USAID.

“We conduct regular monitoring of the harm reduction programs, in particular in correctional settings. I have a feeling that they are still in the bud, but they have got a chance,” says Madina Tokombayeva. “We have to make the adopted laws and the approved guidelines work in these three years, while we still have the donor funding. We need to consult with our clients and, together with the governmental agencies, organizations working in the area of HIV and communities develop a totally new approach to the implementation of such programs so that their quality is really high by the moment when we face the transition to the state funding. They must not be closed under any circumstances or otherwise, we will go back to the parlous times when prisons were the driver in the spread of HIV.”