AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW) is a Dutch, non-governmental, public health organisation working in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) to reduce the impact of HIV among vulnerable populations.
Founded in the Netherlands and launched on 1 December 2001, AFEW is considered an international authority in the field of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for people living with HIV (PLHIV) in EECA, a part of the world that is still largely ignored by major international aid organisations. AFEW is the only non-governmental organisation operating in EECA that was specifically created to address HIV in the region and advocates to make the epidemic a priority in the social and political discourse and to stimulate prompt and appropriate action.
Despite the late appearance of HIV in the region, it is home to one of the fastest growing epidemics. Whilst the number of officially reported cases across the region reaches into the hundreds of thousands, most experts agree that as many 1.5 million HIV-positive individuals already exist in EECA.
HIV has disproportionately affected young people across EECA who are increasingly experimenting with injecting drug use, which has contributed to the rapid growth in the epidemic. However, an increasing percentage of newly registered cases have listed unprotected heterosexual contact as their cause.
A unique opportunity
Despite these grim figures and the bleak forecast for the future, we still have hope.
In 1987, the first case of HIV was registered in the USSR, marking the start of the epidemic in EECA. The relatively late start of the HIV epidemic in this region offers a unique opportunity to develop and implement effective programming to avoid the inevitable health, social and economic catastrophes witnessed in many other parts of the world.
With an experienced team of domestic and international staff, and an increasingly expanding network of international consultants, AFEW bases its operations from three regional offices in EECA, and its headquarters in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In all countries in which AFEW works, activities are carried out in close co-operation with national governmental and non-governmental agencies.
AFEW has developed a system of replication, which adapts successful international HIV programmes, based on best practices to the local conditions in other countries across the region. Currently, AFEW carries out programmes in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Ukraine.
Simultaneously, AFEW develops additional programmes that address issues specific to the region related to HIV in the fields of prevention, treatment, care and support to PLHIV as they arise.
Taking the lead: breaking myths by building knowledge
Since its founding in 2001, AFEW has worked closely with many of the region’s leaders, whose efforts in curbing the HIV epidemic on various levels act as a source of tremendous inspiration and motivation. Whether in high-level institutions or on the streets engaging individuals in discussions about lifestyles, choice and personal health, leadership is demonstrated in many different ways. However, despite these tireless efforts, the region’s unabated battle with the epidemic points to the need for an increased commitment and continued and new forms of leadership at all levels. As such, AFEW takes its position as a regional authority seriously and continues to assist those with their efforts in EECA motivating them to take a leading role in their communities, while highlighting the need for continued support and commitments from those in the West.
Part of the AFEW mission is to strengthen the engagement between the East and the West in the response to the HIV epidemic in EECA. AFEW strives to promote a better understanding—both in the East and in the West—of the magnitude of this looming human catastrophe and to stimulate a committed and sustained response.