World AIDS Day 2017 – message of Anke van Dam

World AIDS Day 2017: message of AFEW International Executive Director Anke van Dam

Let us stand still on this World AIDS Day at all the brave people living with HIV that fight for their right to health. Let us think about those living in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA), where only 28% of people with the diagnosis HIV have access to ARV treatment, and less than a quarter have a zero viral load. Where the majority of people at a higher risk for HIV face stigma and discrimination. Where the costs for some generic ARVs are higher than the patented ones. Where funds for prevention, treatment and care are diminishing with the years.

AFEW International Executive Director Anke van Dam

In a world where we know how to prevent HIV, how to stop AIDS, how to treat with optimal care, we should not allow that people die of AIDS, nowhere and also not in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

It is therefore not for nothing that AIDS2018, the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam on 23 – 27 July 2017, has a focus on the public health concerns as HIV, TB and viral hepatitis in this specific EECA region. Next year summer, we have more than ever an opportunity to address the challenges and the obstacles in policies, political and health care systems. With the relevant stakeholders in one spot, we have an excellent chance to facilitate dialogue between communities, political leaders and donors for better access to treatment and for sustainable financial mechanisms.

AFEW is working for more than 16 years in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to improve access to health care for people who use drugs, prisoners, sex workers, LGBT and young people. From our experience and collaboration in EECA we can tell what is needed. We as AFEW with all other hard-working networks, NGOs and CBOS from the region will demonstrate our expertise, drive, motivation and willingness to curb the HIV epidemic and our wish for a healthy future for all, including the people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

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 Need for a European Union Communication and Action Plan for HIV, TB and Viral Hepatitis

Author: Anke van Dam, AFEW International

For a couple of years, European civil society organisations advocate for a new European Communication and Action Plan for HIV. In the World Health Organisation, new HIV diagnosed infections in European region increased by 76%. These infections more than doubled in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) from 2005 to 2014. The whole European region accounted for 153 000 reported new infections in 2015 (ECDC 2017). The cumulative number of diagnosed infections in the European region increased to 2,003,674, which includes 992,297 cases reported to the joint ECDC/WHO surveillance database and 1,011,377 infections diagnosed in Russia, as reported by the Russian Federal AIDS Center.

Co-infection in the EECA region

According to ECDC monitoring and the WHO Europe HIV action plan  adopted in September 2016, these underline the high rate of tuberculosis (TB) and hepatitis B and C coinfection among people who live with HIV (PLHIV). In 2014, TB was the most common AIDS-defining illness in the eastern part of the region.

Of the estimated 2.3 million PLHIV who are co-infected with hepatitis C virus globally, 27% are living in the EECA region. An estimated 83% of HIV-positive people who inject drugs live with hepatitis C in the eastern part of the region.

Plan was prolonged

The European Union had a Communication ‘Combating HIV/AIDS in the European Union and neighbouring countries, 2009–2013’ and its associated Action Plan.

The overarching objectives of the Communication were to reduce the number of new HIV infections in all European countries by 2013, to improve access to prevention, treatment, care and support, and to improve the quality of life of people living with, affected by, or most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in the EU and neighbouring countries. This Plan has been prolonged for another three years. It was followed up with a Commission Staff Working Document: ‘Action Plan on HIV/AIDS in the EU and neighbouring countries: 2014-2016.’’

Already during the period of the prolongation and for three years, the European civil society organisations, including AFEW International, that work in the field of HIV, are advocating for the new communication and action plan. So far without success, despite the fact that according to the evaluation, the Communication and its Action Plan were seen by stakeholders to have provided the necessary stimulus, continuous pressure and leverage for various stakeholders to advocate for and take actions against HIV/AIDS in Europe.

Response is developed

The epidemiology of the three diseases – HIV, TB and viral hepatitis – urged the European Commission to develop a ‘Response to the Communicable Diseases of HIV, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis C’ in 2016. Next to this, the European Commission changed the civil society forum on HIV and AIDS, an advisory body to the European Commission into a civil society forum on HIV, TB and viral hepatitis in 2017, in which AFEW International takes part. This combined focus from the European Commission and civil society organisations could give an impulse to meet the needs for prevention, treatment and care for the three diseases.

Actions within the plan

The European civil society organisations developed a list of actions that should be included in the new communication and action plan.

Prevention needs to be scaled up: HIV can be prevented by a combination of proven public health measures. Yet two third of the European countries do not have a prevention package at scale. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is only provided in a couple of countries.

Treatment access needs to be scaled up: treatment and early treatment improves the health outcomes of the patient and prevents onward transmission. Therefore, countries should scale up testing and offer treatment upon diagnosis and remove barriers to testing and linkage to care. Governments should remove political, legal and regulatory barriers preventing communities most affected by HIV (people living with HIV, gay men and other men having sex with men, migrants, people using drugs, sex workers, transgender person, people in detention) to access health services.

Medicines should be affordable: the price of medicines is still a major barrier to the implementation of treatment guidelines and combination preventions strategies including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Community-based services as one of the components of the health system: include and recognise community base services who can deliver services closer to affected populations as important part of the health system. Invest in them.

AFEW advocates for the plan

In July 2017 the European Parliament adopted the resolution on the EU’s response to HIV, tuberculosis and viral hepatitis. This is an important step towards a communication and action plan. The EU commissioner for Health and Food Safety Mr. Andriukaitis expressed that he is in favour, and a couple of governments also feel a need for such plan. The European Commission and the Commission on Public Health Directorate are still silent though.

AFEW International, together with many governmental and non-governmental organisations, think that the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam in July 2018 would be a wonderful opportunity and the right moment for the European Commission to present its intentions and good will to fight HIV, TB and viral hepatitis by a communication and action plan. Civil society will not stop to advocate for this. Otherwise we feel that European citizens will be left behind.

AIDS Foundation East-West becomes AFEW International

ImprimirAIDS Foundation East-West, an international network of civil society organisations that is dedicated to improving the health of key populations, has changed its name to AFEW International.

A new logo and communication strategy have been created, and now they are part of the organisation’s identity. “With this new name we keep the recognisability and our brand as many partners in the field already know us,” says the executive director of AFEW International Anke van Dam. “With the new name we also acknowledge that we do more than HIV and AIDS. AFEW has built a track record for projects on TB, viral hepatitis and sexual and reproductive health and rights as well. AFEW strives to social inclusion of the key populations at risk and a healthy future of Eastern Europe and Central Asia!”

AFEW is dedicated to improving the health of key populations in society. With a focus on Eastern Europe and Central Asia, AFEW strives to promote health and increase access to prevention, treatment and care for major public health concerns such as HIV, TB, viral hepatitis, and sexual and reproductive health.

AFEW International is an uniquely positioned organisation as one of the few HIV, TB, hepatitis and sexual and reproductive health and rights organisations working in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This is a region where the work is critical, as HIV and sexually transmitted infections are on the rise, sexuality education is deficient and gender-based violence goes largely unrecognized. Further, cases of multidrug resistant and extensive drug resistant tuberculosis are increasing; and there is a very high prevalence of hepatitis C. The group with the highest risk for HIV and HIV related diseases are people who use drugs. However, transmission through sexual contact is increasing and the prevalence among women and men who have sex with men is increasing.

Anke van Dam: “I am Looking Forward to an Exciting Year!”

 IMG_1446AFEW International executive director Anke van Dam sums up the results of 2016 and gives introduction of AFEW activities for the upcoming year of 2017.

– How was the year of 2016 for AFEW?

– 2016 was a good year for us. We started with two big projects. First one is the second phase of the project Bridging the Gaps: health and rights for key populations (BtG). This second phase lasts until the end of 2020 and allows AFEW to continue with strengthening the capacity of local organisations in the field of harm reduction, client management, service provision and human rights. In the second phase of the BtG project, AFEW will explore the opportunities for the activities for labour migrants, rehabilitation and human rights violations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region.  For the second project, AFEW received a grant from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to engage Eastern Europe and Central Asia into AIDS2018 – the international AIDS conference to be held in Amsterdam in 2018. AIDS2018 gives us a chance to focus on the ongoing increase of new HIV cases, an increased number of multi-drug resistant TB cases and a high prevalence of Hepatitis C in the region. At AIDS2018 we will work hard to highlight those concerns, but also the achievements to mitigate the epidemics. One of the pillars of this engagement is strengthening the capacity of community based participatory research. We received more than 200 applications for a training which AFEW organised for 24 participants from 11 countries of EECA in November. The training is the part of a full package of activities to ensure that we have an increased participation of representatives of EECA by an increased number of abstracts and presentations. AFEW International expanded its team to six staff members. I am very pleased with my colleagues, and feel confident that we as team can build on a better future for the region.

– What were the greatest achievements and challenges for the organisation?

– I was very happy that Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs granted us the project AIDS2018. For me, this is the evidence that we are recognized as a leading organisation in prevention, treatment and care of HIV, TB and viral hepatitis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The increase of our annual budget in 2016 gave us the possibility to expand the team and therefore our contributions to projects, conferences, meetings etc. This leads to AFEW being seen as an important player in the HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health field for EECA. The challenge remains to get sufficient attention and awareness for the groups that we work for: the key populations at risk for HIV, TB and viral hepatitis. People who use drugs, sex workers, LGBTI and prisoners are the ones who are still discriminated and have the least access to the health services. Budgets for these groups are small, and there is still little acknowledgement of their needs from an individual and public health perspective. AFEW will continue working hard to advocate for their rights to health, and to ensure their access to health services. Furthermore, there is still little awareness about the HIV prevalence in Eastern Europe. I hope to be able to change that with our activities for AIDS2018.

– What new things or big changes that happened in 2016 for AFEW?

– In 2016, AFEW expanded its profile of capacity building organisation. We also offered capacity strengthening in community based research. I am proud of our e-learning modules on this topic. Our members of the AFEW network are developing themselves with specific specialisations. AFEW-Ukraine is building up a lot of expertise around young drug users; AFEW-Kyrgyzstan strengthens the capacity of key populations with regards to advocacy and active involvement in governmental bodies; AFEW-Tajikistan increases access to testing and treatment, they managed to get a licence for community based counselling and testing for HIV; AFEW-Kazakhstan is expanding its expertise on prison health. A big change of 2016 was the move to our new office. Now we have working space with a beautiful view on the river IJ in Amsterdam.

IMG_1438– What are the plans for the organisation for 2017?

– We changed our name into AFEW International, and we will no longer spell out AFEW. The reason behind this change is that we do much more than AIDS and HIV, however AFEW as a brand is well known. That is why we keep it as AFEW. A new logo will be presented soon. We have developed a new strategic plan 2017 – 2019, and it is the basis of our work in the coming years. We prepared a communication strategy that gives us guidance to promote AFEW and its work. 2017 must be the year when AFEW leaves its modesty behind, and becomes visible as the leader for the region. The preparations for AIDS2018 will take a lot of our energy. Many activities are planned to bring many representatives of governments, civil society, universities and other institutions to Amsterdam in 2018. I am really excited about the cultural fund that we have established. Cultural initiatives that address stigma and discrimination will be financially supported to present before and during the international AIDS conference. On March 28, we will organise ‘Culture Cures and Kills II’ – a symposium for students of all kind of studies about the challenges and successes of the fight against HIV, TB and viral hepatitis in EECA. This symposium will raise awareness about the diseases in this region among the younger generation, the upcoming young professionals. I hope that many get interested and want to find a job in this field and in EECA. Furthermore, after three years of being a network we, all AFEW members, will evaluate the network construction and discuss how we want to work together in the future. All members have developed and strategized their activities. How does this fit in the bigger picture of AFEW? The aim is a better understanding and added value to the network. I am looking forward to an exciting year!

City Health Conference 2017 Focuses on Developing Healthy Cities

city-health-20176th International City Health Conference ‘Empowerment, Engagement and Partnership: participating to develop healthy cities’ will take place in Basel, Switzerland in September 2017. Currently the call for submissions for presentations, as well as proposals for the sessions within the conference is announced.

AFEW International executive director Anke van Dam is the member of the Programme Advisory Group for the Conference.

“The City Health Conference is an important event for sharing experiences and best practices of interventions at a municipal level. Interventions about health, sports, but also about environment, housing and the homeless people, are presented and discussed. AFEW organized the City Health Conference in Amsterdam in 2014 and brought professionals from multiple disciplines together to discuss concerns and problems at city level from different angles. This is needed since more than a half of the population in the world is living in an urban setting,” Anke van Dam says.

The Conference is hosted by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland and organised by KnowledgeActionChange.

‘Empowerment, Engagement and Partnership: participating to develop healthy cities’ reflects the belief that measures and actions for health promotion and urban development are more effective if the affected populations play an active and co-decisive role in the process of design, development and delivery. Evidence demonstrates that such engagement and participation contributes to sustainable solutions, to a greater identification with urban public space and increased intergenerational communication.

This is an ‘inclusive’ conference, with presenters and participants including NGOs, community projects, advocacy groups, as well as urban and health planners, academics, policy makers and those who deliver services and interventions.

Currently, the organisers welcome both individual submissions for oral and poster presentations, as well as proposals for whole sessions within the conference. The deadline for the submission is March-April 2017. The programme committee will use selected abstracts to construct themed sessions. Authors will be informed if their abstract has been accepted before the posting of the near-final programme in June 2017.

To register for the conference, please, click here.

AFEW Director is the Chair of TB/HIV Working Group

ankeAFEW executive director Anke van Dam became the chair of Wolfheze Working Group on TB/HIV collaborative activities. The group will document and promote the best models and identify research priorities of integrated TB/HIV care in the European region. Members of the group will also identify barriers in TB/HIV services and collaboration.

“I am very honoured to be part of the group,” – Anke says. – “AFEW is implementing integrated HIV/TB activities in the EECA region for quite some years now. I will bring this experience into the group, and hope to contribute to collecting best models. There is still so much to gain in improving the care and health of people living with both HIV and TB.”

Wolfheze TB/HIV Working Group started a year ago in The Hague, The Netherlands. There, Wolfheze and WHO National TB Programme Managers’ meeting participants discussed the need for strengthening TB/HIV collaborative activities in the context of the WHO End TB Strategy. They agreed to create a Working Group on TB/HIV collaborative activities taking into account specific challenges and opportunities in the WHO European region.

Join AFEW in the European Networking Zone in Durban

thumb_homepage_mobile_appOnly several days are left until the start of the AIDS 2016 Conference that this year is held in Durban, South Africa from 18 to 22 July. AFEW will be present at the conference with its own booth where everyone can leave a wish to be taken to the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in 2018.

AFEW booth is situated in the European Networking Zone (ENZ) that is hosted by The European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG), AIDS Action Europe and ECUO. ENZ is part of the Global Village, a space where activists and researchers from the community in Europe will present their work and projects.

Several AFEW activities will be taking part in the European Networking Zone. On July 19 Anke van Dam, AFEW’s Director, will host a question and answer session about the road to AIDS 2018 starting at 15:00 at AFEW booth. Dutch Ambassador for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights & HIV/AIDS Mr. Lambert Grijns and UN Secretary-General Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia Mr. Michel Kazatchkine will be taking part in it. On Thursday, 21 July Anke van Dam will tell about the migrants in Eastern Europe and Central-Asia during “Migrants and Access to Health” panel that will start at 16:00. Click here to view and download the program of the ENZ: IAC2016_ENZ_Programme_small

You can follow the updates from AIDS 2016 Conference on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

AFEW Takes Part in 21st International AIDS Conference ‘ACCESS EQUITY RIGHTS NOW’

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AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW) is taking part in 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016), on 18-22 July 2016 in Durban, South Africa. Visitors of AFEW booth in EUROzone of the Global Village will have the opportunity to leave a wish to be taken to the 22nd International AIDS Conference that will take place in 2018 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

“I am very glad to welcome our colleagues and friends to AFEW booth, – said Anke van Dam, executive director of AFEW. – We would like to share the results of our work in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and also invite them to come to the next conference in Amsterdam. AFEW is asked to engage EECA in the AIDS 2018 conference, and for us it is very important that many people from the region will be present to show their key activities there.”

On July 19 Anke van Dam will host a question and answer session about the road to AIDS 2018 starting at 15:00 at AFEW booth. Dutch Ambassador for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights & HIV/AIDS Mr. Lambert Grijns and UN Secretary-General Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia Mr. Michel Kazatchkine will be taking part in it.

On Wednesday, 20 July the executive director of AFEW will talk about youth friendly services in Ukraine at an expert panel that will discuss activities for young key populations at 11:30. On Thursday, 21 July Anke van Dam will tell about the migrants during “Migrants and Access to Health” panel that will start at 16:00 in the EUROzone in the Global Village.

AIDS 2016 conference in South Africa will focus on the latest issues in HIV science, policy and practice and will also seek to share key research findings, lessons learned, best practices, as well as identify gaps in knowledge. The conference will feature abstract-driven sessions, a daily plenary session, a variety of symposia sessions, professional development workshops, and independently organized satellite meetings. In addition, the programme will include a number of activities, such as the Global Village and the Youth Programme, which are an integral aspect of the International AIDS Conference.