Expansion and improvement of HIV prevention services in Uzbekistan

In 2021, AFEW International,  in partnership with a local partner NGO “ISHONCH VA HAYOT” (a community based membership NGO uniting key populations), launched a 2-year project “Expansion and improvement of HIV services in Uzbekistan”.

The activities will take place in the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent city, which has a high concentration of key populations (KPs) vulnerable to HIV infection. The project will address existing gap in the access of KPs to testing and relevant HIV services, and contribute significantly to the Paris Declaration commitments made by Tashkent City. Through the rapid HIV testing system developed by the community and the subsequent social follow-up of clients to the health facility, clients will be linked to ARV treatment in a timely manner.

The project also focuses on the development of a key partner NGO ISHONCH VA HAYOT through a thoroughly planned capacity building program, based on the assessment of the organizational needs.

Among the main project activities are:

  • Training of the outreach workers on assisted self-testing and HIV prevention information;
  • Establishment of a monitoring system to evaluate the quality of outreach workers and peer educators.
  • Strengthening of the interaction with AIDS Centre nurses to improve treatment adherence.
  • Organising assisted self-testing for key populations in Tashkent city and connecting identified HIV-positive people with the AIDS Centre.
  • AIDS Center and Outreach workers collaboration on returning lost to treatment patients (those who were earlier tested positive and registered with the AIDS Center but did not return to checkup and ART).
  • Establishment of a pilot Social Support Centre for KP to provide psycho-social and legal support and ensure adherence to ART among KP.

The first training session for outreach workers “Introducing assisted self-testing for HIV among KP” took place on September 28-30, 2021 in Tashkent. The training on rapid test system use and client/case management/monitoring ensures that the outreach workers are equipped to provide quality consultation on testing and HIV to the KPs and refer those KP representatives tested HIV-positive to the AIDS Center and related programs, and that information on the KPs is collected accurately and safely.

AFEW International thanks the Republican AIDS Centre of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Tashkent AIDS Centre, the Interagency Expert Council for close cooperation and coordination with international and foreign organisations in the field of HIV, TB and malaria response and the attraction of donor funding for activities, the IEC Secretariat, UNAIDS in Uzbekistan for supporting the pilot project concept in Tashkent during the preparation and implementation phase.

The project is financially supported by the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Attention, Uzbekistan! Submit Applications for COVID-19 Challenge 2020

On the 7th of April an online competition of innovative tools and solutions for mitigating the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, was launched. In the framework of this competition innovators from all over Uzbekistan can collaborate and create innovations, combining knowledge, technology, entrepreneurial skills to help those who were affected in one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This competition is aimed at helping the most vulnerable people, and not at finding and implementing projects trying to solve clinical / scientific problems.


  • Health: Ideas and technologies in the field of healthcare (promotion of behavioral initiatives to prevent the spread of the disease / improve hygiene, providing support to medical workers at the forefront, telemedicine, contact tracking / isolation strategies, development of treatment and diagnosis methods, alternative methods of manufacturing the necessary medical devices).
  • Vulnerable groups: Ideas and solutions should be aimed at solving the problems of a group of people most affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 due to the presence of various medical, economic and social characteristics, for example, due to health problems or social difficulties, the application of measures of social adaptation and protect people who have lost their jobs / sources of income, especially among women.
  • Entrepreneurship and Employment: Project proposals for resolving issues of promoting and supporting local enterprises, protecting them from bankruptcy, searching for new effective cooperation measures, new markets and transferring part of their business and services to the “online” / Internet mode, changing or adapting business models, saving jobs, especially for women.
  • Community: Ideas to strengthen communication with friends, family, and neighbors to overcome the problems of social isolation and distance; solutions to support remote work or job search; online and offline tools to bring those in need with those who can help; assistance to people who do not have Internet access; the provision of psychological, legal services, child care services online; digitization of public services for local governments.
  • Education: Projects involving the development and implementation of alternative platforms and tools for students, teachers and entire school systems; digitization of education and training; expanding learning opportunities; virtual lessons, distance learning for children, students and people with disabilities, start-up entrepreneurs, start-up initiatives and the unemployed, the basics and skills of entrepreneurship, vocational training and retraining of workers and modern professions and skills (future skills), especially for women.
  • Awareness raising and behavior patterns: Awareness raising and behavioral ideas Ideas and projects aimed at raising awareness or allowing the formation of the right behavior patterns, such as how to detect fake news and verify information, are welcomed; what solutions and tools need to be created so that they remind people to wash or treat their hands with an antiseptic when entering a new building, or they warned or did not allow them to touch their faces.
  • Leisure: It is supposed to support projects that could become an alternative to traditional forms of entertainment and would help ensure the safety and health of skills and audiences, encourage physical activity, and counteract the psychological crisis through playful approaches.
  • Other: Here you can offer solutions and ideas that are not covered by previous topics. They invite innovators to offer solutions for any other topics that you think are important and should be included. So, generate your ideas and feel free to think outside the box!

Eligibility Criteria

Any person, whether it’s an inventor, an IT specialist, a student, a private sector representative, a project manager, a scientist or even a person with a rich imagination, innovative thinking, who wants to change something, can take part, individually or in a team, to show how various problems can be solved with the help of creative tools and technologies. You can create everything you can imagine. Let your creativity help society in this difficult time.

Competition Format

  • Filing Applications: The nature of the Covid-19 pandemic requires the rapid implementation of innovative solutions. Interested parties and companies are invited to register and submit the idea of the proposed technological solution by filling out an online form. Then there will be an overview of the projects. Successful teams will be invited to an online interview.
  • Selection: Innovators who have passed the interview will undergo mentoring (online moderation and brainstorming) and do preliminary defense of the project until the final selection and conclusion of the contract. At least 5 selected projects will be supported by financial contributions of up to US $ 10,000 provided by partners for testing and further implementation of the proposed technological solutions. Selected projects will also be widely represented on other platforms.
  • Implementation: Upon completion of the trial and trial period, the organizers and partners will consider the best approach for further development of solutions so that they can best help people during an emergency. The organizers will work with the Special Republican Commission to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 to ensure that the most effective solutions can receive further funding and implementation to achieve the maximum possible effect during the current crisis.

Selection Criteria

  • Feasibility decision: How relevant is the use of a prototype for a real problem? Does it really work? How complete is the product? Can a prototype scale as a real solution with multiple users?
  • Degree of innovation: The degree of innovation and creativity of the solution and the proposed approach. Are there already solutions or are there similar solutions? What is the difference?
  • Social Value and influence: The usefulness that the decision brings to society. It also matters whether the solution is open source so that others can adapt and rely on it, members of the project team. Impact on the situation and target group.
  • Team: Founder & Team Potential

Requirements for Applications

  • Applications must contain the data of the initiator and team members, a description of the project, what problem the product solves and what direction / track it corresponds to.
  • Submissions should include at least the project and a technical prototype or simulation, where applicable, with a description of the time and resources needed to implement the project.
  • The organizers urge participants to disclose the source codes / sources of their materials in order to share and promote their innovations with a wide range of partners and the public.

For more information, visit COVID-19 Challenge.

AFEW International in Uzbekistan

AFEW International represented by Daria Alekseeva, Program Director and Yuri de Boer, Senior Program Manager, and Ainura Batyrbekova, Project Manager of AFEW Kazakhstan concluded a scoping mission to Tashkent from 15-17 January.

At the invitation of the Ministry of Health and with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, the team met with the Republican AIDS Center and the Municipal AIDS Center of the City of Tashkent, the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) on HIV/AIDS, international organizations, as well as a broad range of community based organisations, including networks of people living with HIV.

At the center of the discussion are several proposed interventions to further develop and improve the quality of HIV testing and prevention services for key populations and support to people living with HIV. The overall aims of the proposed projects is to strength the role of civil society and key populations in inclusive health care in Uzbekistan, in particularly in motivating the most difficult to reach groups to get an HIV testing,  and to further strengthen the capacity of AIDS Centers and service providers. During the meetings, all parties involved acknowledged the need to keep focus particularly on key populations (people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender people, and sex workers) and use the expertise of the AIDS Centers as well as the community organizations to better access these groups. Optimized ART adherence for people on treatment was also seen as a possible outcome of joint interventions.

In the coming months, project proposals will be further developed, and formal endorsement from governmental stakeholders and the CCM will be sought.

AFEW International has already supported projects for people living with HIV in Uzbekistan, and actively involved participants from the country in the AIDS2018 conference. In addition, representatives from Uzbekistan participated in AFEW International’s community based research education project.


Prospects for cooperation in the health sector in Uzbekistan

On January 10, 2020, AFEW International, represented by Anke van Dam, Executive Director, and Daria Alexeeva, Program Director, met with Ambassador of Uzbekistan in Benelux countries Dilier Hakimov.

AFEW International is considering possibilities to implement two projects in Uzbekistan. The first one is to develop and improve the quality of HIV testing and prevention services for key populations and support people living with HIV.

The second project, entitled “Strengthening civil society in inclusive health care in Uzbekistan”, is currently under consideration by the European Commission and is on the reserve list of projects.

At the end of the meeting, the parties agreed on a schedule for the AFEW International delegation to visit Tashkent on 15-16 January 2020. AFEW International’s team will have negotiations with the Republican AIDS Center, as well as with representatives of some international organizations, which may act as donors for the implementation of projects of the non-governmental organization in Uzbekistan.

AFEW International already has experience in working in Uzbekistan: the organization supported several projects in the country through ESF, as well as was involved in preparations for the AIDS2018 conference. In addition, representatives from Uzbekistan participated in AFEW International’s community based research education project.

Uzbekistan Eliminates Vertical HIV Transmission

Evgeniya Korotkova from Ishonch va Hayot NGO, photo from the personal archive

Author: Inna Gavrilova, Ukraine

The rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission in the Republic of Uzbekistan is approaching the zero mark. In 2017, only 11 cases of such transmission were documented or 0.3% of all the HIV cases registered.

“Such trend has been observed for several years already,” says Evgeniya Korotkova from Ishonch va Hayot NGO, which has been advocating for the rights of women and children from the families affected by HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uzbekistan. “It gives me confidence that in the nearest two years our country will be able to get well prepared, do its best at the national level to successfully go through the procedure to validate the elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission and to become the fourth country in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to receive an elimination validation certificate from the World Health Organization (WHO).”

According to Korotkova, WHO validation of the elimination of vertical HIV transmission is a rather lengthy and complicated process, but in the recent seven years, patients’ groups and civil society organizations were able to gain support from the government, which is also interested in healthy newborns who would get a good start in their lives. Only the joint efforts of civil society activists and government allowed fighting stigma and discrimination – which are the main obstacle on the way to 90-90-90 targets – in an effective and comprehensive way. It is not enough to just find all the people living with HIV (PLWH), the task is to convince them not to be afraid of their diagnosis and take the therapy.

“Stigma and discrimination remain serious obstacles on the way to HIV prevention, prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, expansion of HIV testing as well as enhanced access and adherence to HIV care and support,” said Evgeniya Korotkova. “The government committed to take over the procurement of all antiretroviral (ARV) drugs by 2021 to make sure all people who need treatment have access to it. At the same time, it is important for PLWH to be willing to take ARV drugs and adhere to treatment, despite stigma and discrimination, which is still present today in health institutions and in the society as a whole. We help our doctors and actively work with PLWH to ensure their adherence to ART.”

It bears reminding that the WHO officially validated the elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission in three countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Belarus, Armenia and Moldova.

We Fight, We Hide or We Unite

We Fight, We Hide or We Unite: coping strategies amongst resilient harm reduction organisations and community networks in the context of shrinking space for civil society in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

The title of this report, ‘We Fight, We Hide or We Unite’, reflects the survival strategies we identified amongst resilient harm reduction non-governmental organisations and community networks of people who use drugs (PWUD) in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA). This assessment forms a part of the regional approach of the AFEW Network within the ‘Bridging the Gaps: health and rights of key populations’ programme, financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands. This report presents the primary findings from the assessment, ‘Shrinking Space for Civil Society Organisations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia’, conducted between June and September 2017 at the international level by AFEW International and at the regional level.

We provide a detailed description of the overall study purpose, methodology, background and context regarding the shrinking civil society space and the coping strategies of HIV and PWUD CSOs working under these circumstances. The results of this assessment will be used to develop ideas and strategies on how to cope with the local contexts of the shrinking civil society space. In this way, it will contribute to the survival of CSOs and improving the current situation. This assessment represents the first step in the development of this focus within the AFEW Network’s regional approach within the ‘Bridging the Gaps’ programme. It will be followed by an analysis of existing gaps in the support necessary for specific interventions and initiatives to support specific coping strategies; the development of pilot projects on advocacy, service delivery or capacity building; and the continuous monitoring of results.

The full version of the report is available here.