AFEW’s Seminars at the 5th Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference

eecaacAs part of AFEW’s strategy to keep the dialogue with the countries we work in and to support our local partners that implement groundbreaking projects for people who use drugs, sex workers, people living with HIV and other key populations, AFEW is organising or taking part in the following seminars during the 5th Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference (EECAAC) in Moscow:

Bridging the Gaps: Health and Rights for Key Populations – Successes, Achievements, and Challenges
The objective of this seminar is to share the results of the “Bridging the Gaps: Health and Rights for Key Populations” programme, and the People ho Use Drugs Project in particular. We will focus on interventions developed, including: youth activities in Ukraine, e-learning and knowledge platforms in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, prison activities in Georgia, and the exchange of information with other harm reduction organisations in the programme, and with other key populations

When: March 24, 11:30 – 13:00
Where: BIRYUSA Hall
Speakers/Presenters:
Janine Wildschut, Project Manager, AIDS Foundation East-West
Anke van Dam: Director, AIDS Foundation East-West
Ikrom Ibragimov: Director, Public Foundation AIDS Foundation East-West in Tajikistan

How Community Involvement in Research Leads to More Effective Interventions
presentation of research opportunities for community based organisations that work with key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. By equipping community members with tools to conduct research and collect data, their capacity is increased and the research results reflect an inside perspective as to needs and priorities to design future intervention programmes

When: March 24, 13:30 – 15:00
Where: BAIKAL Hall
Speakers/Presenters:
Anke van Dam: Director, AIDS Foundation East-West
Natalya Shumskaya: Director, Public Foundation AIDS Foundation East-West in Kyrgyzstan 

Community-Based Efforts to Ensure Access to HIV Treatment
The work of the community within the project “Bridging the Gaps: Health and Rights for Key Populations”

When: March 25, 13:30 – 15:00
Where: Congress Hall 1
Speakers/Presenters: Anke van Dam: Director, AIDS Foundation East-West

Information Exchange and Cooperation between the European Union and the Countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia Region
The main theme of this seminar is the expansion of HIV prevention and treatment services for key populations as a key element of the HIV response strategy in the EU and EECA region. Participants will become familiar with the most illustrative examples of the activities of the civil society as well as identify gaps that must be filled from the civil society’s point of view

When: March 25, 15:30 – 17:00
Where: BIRYUSA Hall
Speakers/Presenters:
Anke van Dam: Director, AIDS Foundation East-West
Olga Alexandrova: Head of the programmes and projects, East Europe & Central Asia Union of PLWH (ECUO)
Michael Krone: Executive Coordinator, AIDS Action Europe
Ljuba Böttger, Communications Coordinator, AIDS Action Europe

In addition to these, AFEW’s partners will be presenting their work with key populations.

Nadezhda Sharonova from NGO “Podruga” in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, will speak on the Specifics of Prevention and Treatment among Female Sex Workers.

When: March 25, 11:30 – 13:00
Where: PRESS ROOM

NGO “Podruga” is the only organisation in the south of Kyrgyzstan that works specifically with women who use drugs, sex workers and former prisoners.

Finally, AFEW is also involved in the key population photo exhibition “Every life matters”, jointly organised by partners of Bridging the Gaps. These are stories of six people that invite to step into their world and experience what it is like to be a drug user living with HIV in Nepal, a young gay man in Botswana, a female sex worker in Uganda, a male sex worker in Vietnam, a woman who uses drugs and a young gay man in Kyrgyzstan. The exhibition features a unique combination of photos made by these community members themselves and complementary photos that were made by award winning photographer Chris de Bode. Through their photo stories, we want to create more visibility about the challenges they encounter and the HIV risks they face.

The 5th Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference will bring together 2500 scientists, experts, healthcare professionals, policy makers and civil society representatives who will exchange best practices and jointly strategize about how to achieve the UNAIDS target of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

Every life matters: Key population photo exhibition at the EECAAC conference in Moscow

chris

Baby of Linara. Photo: Chris de Bode

Linara, Thuan and David invite you to step into their world and experience what it is like to be a female drug user in Kyrgyzstan, a male sex worker in Vietnam or a young gay man in Uzbekistan. The exhibition features a unique combination of photos made by these community members themselves and complementary photos that were made by award winning photographer Chris de Bode. Through their photo stories, which will be displayed at the 5th Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference (EECAAC), Bridging the Gaps wants to create more visibility about the challenges they encounter and the HIV risks they face.

“The doctors gave me pills for an abortion and told me my baby will be a freak. But my son is perfectly healthy.”
Linara

The spread of HIV will not be stopped and reversed without a relentless focus on key populations

Key populations (sex workers, people who use drugs, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people) are hit hard and disproportionately by HIV, with a million new infections a year – that’s half the total worldwide. It is often difficult for them to have any control over the risks they face. They have to deal with a toxic mix of legal, political and social factors which can institutionalise stigma and social exclusion.

David is a young gay man from Uzbekistan. He was forced to leave his country because of his sexual orientation. As a refugee he did not have permission to work. He is now an activist for LGBT rights.

Thuan lives in Vietnam and is a male sex worker in Ho Chi Minh City. His family doesn’t know he is a sex worker. They do know he is gay.

Linara is living with her husband in Kyrgyzstan. She is 42 years old and has a long history of drug use. During her recent pregnancy she faced a lot of discrimination.

“He told my friend that homosexuals don’t get free treatment. He threatened him with criminal prosecution and imprisonment.”
David

EECAAC

The 5th Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference (EECAAC) will take place from 23-25 March 2016 in Moscow, Russia. The conference will bring together 2500 scientists, experts, healthcare professionals, policy makers and civil society representatives who will exchange best practices and jointly strategize about how to achieve the UNAIDS target of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

When: 23-25 March 2016

Where: World Trade Center Moscow, Russia

Bridging the Gaps

The photo exhibition was developed by Bridging the Gaps. Bridging the Gaps is a joint initiative of more than 90 grassroots organisations which collaborate with four Dutch non-governmental organisations, namely Aids Fonds, Aids Foundation East-West (AFEW), Federation of Dutch Associations for the Integration of Homosexuality (COC), and Mainline, and with five global networks, which are the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD), International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), Global Forum of MSM and HIV (MSMGF) and Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP). Together we address the human rights violations and challenges faced by sex workers, people who use drugs and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, in accessing much-needed HIV and health services.

Decriminalise drugs to meet users’ right to good health, says UN adviser

December 9, by Damien Gayle, The Guardian

pudAll drug use should be decriminalised and possession made free from the threat of lengthy prison terms, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to health has said, criticising punitive sanctions on users.

In an open letter, Dainius Pūras throws down the gauntlet to governments with the claim that a focus on repressive drug control means they are failing to meet their treaty obligations to realise citizens’ rights to good health.

He argues that drug control policies, including punitive measures against drug users and dealers, drive many people away from health services and have led to epidemic levels of violence.

“At the root of many health-related problems faced by people who use drugs is criminalisation itself, which only drives issues and people underground and contributes to negative public and individual health outcomes,” Pūras writes.

“As a step towards the fulfilment of the right to health, drug use and possession should be decriminalised and de-penalised alongside increased investment in treatment, education and other interventions …”

The letter, dated Monday 7 December, is addressed to the executive director of the UN office on drugs and crime, Yury Fedotov, but it was mentioned to delegates at the reconvened 58th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which began on Wednesday morning in Vienna.

The commission is currently discussing the draft outcome document for the UN general assembly special session on the drug problem in April 2016, where ministers and heads of government from all member states will debate international drugs policy for the first time since 1998.

Drugs law reform groups are not hopeful of any radical outcome. But with liberal attitudes to drugs becoming more widespread across the world, including in the US, they see the session as the best opportunity in years to get their voices heard.

Pūras’s letter argues that the current framework of drug control is a major hurdle to facilitating the right to health and wellbeing. It denounces the use of the death penalty for drug offences and lethal drug law enforcement.

“Repressive responses to inter alia drug use, rural crop production and non-violent, low-level drug offences pose unnecessary risks to public health and create significant barriers to the full and effective realisation of the right to health, with a particularly devastating impact on minorities, those living in situations of rural and urban poverty, and people who use drugs,” he says.

Pointing out that drug use can lead to a range of health problems, including the spread of blood-borne diseases, Pūras calls for better access to opiates for the treatment of pain, harm reduction measures such as needle exchanges, including in prisons, and evidence-based treatment for drug addicts.

“The provision of harm reduction must not be seen as merely a policy option for states,” Pūras writes. “Rather, the provision of these programmes for people who use drugs … constitute[s] a legal obligation as part of state obligation to progressively realise the right to health.”

Steve Rolles, a senior policy analyst at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said the letter issued a challenge to many countries, including the UK, whose drugs laws were now being interpreted as in conflict with UN human rights treaty obligations.

“It does throw down the gauntlet to the UK government. We do still have a very punitive approach, we do still criminalise people who use drugs. The UK government is violating the right to health for many millions of people in this country. This is a very serious challenge and they will need to respond to this, which they won’t be able to do unless they change the law,” he said.

HIV Testing Week in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan Reached Over 1200 People

testDuring the HIV testing week that was held in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan between November 23-28, AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW) and its local partners reached 1249 people with voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) as well as with information about HIV prevention and treatment. The testing week was held in the framework of UNODC-funded project Get Information, Get Tested, Get Treatment! and was focused mainly on people who use drugs and prisoners. The goal of the project was to increase the number of people that are aware of their HIV status, decrease cases of late diagnosis and contribute to timely prescription of treatment.

Results: Kazakhstan

  • 1000 rapid HIV tests purchased;
  • 898 people went through voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) on seven sites: male and female colonies in Almaty region and five rehabilitation centers Teen Challenge for people who use drugs in Almaty;
  • No positive HIV cases revealed; all people tested know their HIV status and have basic information about prevention;
  • Rehab clients received motivational packages;
  • Round-table held with key partners: Almaty City AIDS Center, Department of Corrections of Almaty, Almaty Narcological Center for medical and social correction and Public organization Doverie Plus, which provided HIV counselors. Partners noted the effectiveness of joining forces and including community members in this work. Sustainability of these activities and their expansion was desired. One of the proposals was to conduct such testing more often, and also for Hepatitis.

testTJResults: Tajikistan

  • 351 people who use drugs went through voluntary counseling and express testing; joint teams of outreach workers and peer counselors of NGOs as well as doctors of AIDS centers were available for VCT in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe and the city of Kulob;
  • 15 people were tested positive and referred to AIDS centers for additional laboratory examination;
  • All people received brochures with information about HIV;
  • Testing results were presented and discussed at a working group meeting with key stakeholders, representing government and public organizations that work in HIV prevention and client management of key populations. Working group participants noted good interaction between outreach teams of public organizations and VCT unites of AIDS centers and agreed that such practice should take place on a regular basis.

About AFEW

AIDS Foundation East-West in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan are two independent public organisations that work to assist in the implementation of programs aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles, sanitation and hygiene and protecting public health; reducing the impact of infectious diseases among key populations. Both organizations are members of AFEW Network headquartered in the Netherlands.