Vienna Express 2010: Towards Universal Access
On July 18-23, 2010, The XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) will take place in Vienna, Austria. This bi-annual event is the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic. With the 2010 deadline for universal access to prevention and treatment coming up, this year’s conference – which looks set to attract over 25,000 participants – offers a vital chance to press for urgent action.
The focus of this conference in Vienna, a city which has served as a crossroads between Western and Eastern Europe throughout its history, will be HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW) is organising the Vienna Express 2010: Towards Universal Access, which will link up a series variety of public events across Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the build-up to the conference in order to draw wider public and media attention to the epidemic in the region and promote the goal of universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support.
HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
The Eastern Europe and Central Asian Region (EECA) is currently home to 1.5 million people living with HIV, cases that are primarily fuelled by injecting drug use. In its activities around AIDS 2010, AFEW will concentrate on the need for expansion of services for injecting drugs users and implementation of harm reduction methodologies. The campaign will also highlight the needs and rights of other key populations at risk (such as street children, sex workers and prisoners).
In EECA, universal access to prevention and treatment for these key populations remains a remote prospect. For example, in 2007, only 315, 000 (or 9%) of the 3.4 million injecting drug users (IDUs) living in the region, were covered by HIV prevention and care services (largely under initiatives financed by the Global Fund). Furthermore, the numbers of people living with HIV who have access to antiretroviral treatment remain very low: Kazakhstan - 41%, Kyrgyzstan - 22.6%, and Ukraine - 35% (Source: National Reports on Monitoring Progress towards the UNGASS Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS - 2008). As a matter of UNGASS policy, these figures do not provide a breakdown on how people were infected. However, since most people living with HIV in the region are injecting drug users, we may extrapolate these access rates to the IDU population.
AFEW Activities for AIDS 2010
In the fortnight before the conference, the Vienna Express 2010: Towards Universal Access will travel the Eastern and Western routes to Vienna. Local partners will organise public events, including concerts, street campaigns, roundtables and visits to best-practice project sites, to promote HIV/AIDS awareness to the media, public and political leaderships of their countries.
AFEW and its partners will provide daily updates on these events and organise coverage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on a live blog at www.viennaexpress.org, in radio and TV announcements, weblogs, websites, and in photo and film reportsand on AFEW’s and its partners’ websites. So far, tours from Moscow and Amsterdam are planned, but other routes (for instance, through the Balkans or Baltic states) are under consideration. The Vienna Express events will take place in Belgium, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, the Netherlands, Russia and Tajikistan.
Extracts from this coverage will be shown during the Vienna Conference and at regional conference hubs. Along the way, participants and supporters will be invited to write their messages, wishes and demands on leaves for an East-West Wish Tree, which will form the centre-point of the opening ceremony of AIDS2010 on July 18.
What We Aim to Achieve
It is envisaged that the campaign will produce:
- Increased political and public support for harm reduction activities;
- A clear focus on harm reduction and universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) at AIDS 2010;
- Local festivals and public events on the way to Vienna garnering public and political support for harm reduction;
United action by NGOs, UN organisations and governmental bodies in raising awareness of harm reduction and universal access;
- The East-West Wish Tree will bring the voices of people from the region to the conference;
- Creative, informational and media initiatives, including reporting and comment on harm reduction in the media in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia; coverage in blogs, Twitter, You-Tube, the AFEW website, etc.; publication of IEC materials about harm reduction to update and inform the public on health issues during the tour; and short films that can be shown at AIDS 2010.
If you are interested in sponsoring, funding or getting involved in AFEW's initatives in the run-up to Vienna 2010, please contact: