AFEW International Announces Culture Fund for the Students

AFEW International with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is announcing a Culture Fund for providing support to all sorts of cultural materials and exhibitions to address stigma and discrimination related to HIV, diversity and other related issues in general, and particularly in the EECA region.

Through the means of arts and culture, the Culture Fund will attract attention of the Dutch people and international community of policy makers, donors, stakeholders, researchers and clinicians who will visit International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam next year, to the issues, challenges and achievement of the EECA region in response to AIDS epidemic.

There are several barriers for the delegates from EECA region to participation in the AIDS conferences: lack of skills on scientific writing and abstract development, costs of participation, language barrier, and quite low interest of the region to the Conference in general.

With our project, we address these barriers, and the Culture Fund will become a specific means to motivate arts and culture communities in the EECA region to attend the conference and thus attract attention of diverse groups of conference visitors including Dutch public to the EECA region and the current state of the AIDS epidemic and response to it.

Meanwhile, we are forming a Think Tank of talented and motivated people who will help us to develop Culture Fund concept; create detailed planning which will identify number of potential recipients of the funds for developing arts and culture pieces; determine criteria for selection of the ideas and initiatives submitted; develop management structure; describe activities and climax event(s); and plan for evaluation; and join coordination group to make it work.

We invite students who are based in the Netherlands to join our Task Force. By the 18th of April we expect to receive a A4 Letter with your vision of the Culture Fund. You can send your suggestions at info@AFEW.nl. More details on what to include in your letter you can find here.

Communities will be Educated how to Analyse Data and how to Act

Two new modules for the program community-based participant research CBPR [e] Education that is supporting and strengthening the research capacity of organizations acting on behalf of and representing the interests of communities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) are released online today.

The program consists of the number of activities, including training for community-based participatory research, small grants program, workshop on dissemination and abstract writing and workshop on presenting research findings on AIDS2018 Conference.

AFEW International gives program participants the opportunity to take part in online e-learning modules for further development of their research skills. The modules are also available for others who are interested in community-based participatory research. Course that costs 75 euros, includes 7 modules on the preparation and conduct of community-based participatory research.

The first module announced today is Data Analysis. Analyzing data is necessary to make sense of the outcomes of the study and to answer the research questions. Analyzing data will help working towards a way of representing the data to a larger public.

The second module is called Bringing about social change: translating knowledge into action. After the data is collected and analyzed, the participant is ready to write the reports and to disseminate the results to others. It is the time now to determine how the participant can bring social change that will benefit the community. The evaluation of the research will be also discussed in this module.

Later on, everyone will be able to participate in the webinar on data analysis, which will be held in late spring or summer of 2017.

AFEW Works Towards Ending Tuberculosis in the EECA region

World Tuberculosis Day is being recognized on the 24th of March in the whole world. This annual event commemorates the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes TB.

The theme of World TB Day 2017 is “Unite to End TB.” AFEW International‘s activities are also aimed on ending tuberculosis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In Kazakhstan, KNCV and AFEW-Kazakhstan are developing a model for structural collaboration between public health (TB, HIV, primary health care) and non-public sector through the DGIS-funded project in Almaty. AFEW International is coordinating this project. In March of 2016, a stakeholders meeting was organised to establish a Stop TB Partnership for Kazakhstan. This partnership reflects a close collaboration between different stakeholders, patients form an important group, working in the field of TB and HIV. 31 participants from NGOs, public TB and HIV services, and representatives of the Stop TB partnership of the Republic of Tajikistan took part in the meeting. The representatives from Tajikistan presented the value, successes and challenges of such partnership.

Kazakhstan is one of the three countries selected to develop a model to strengthen engagement with non-public sector for improved quality of TB/HIV services. Almaty was chosen for the implementation of the model because it is the largest urban area in the country. The project supports the establishment of a network of NGOs that have the capacity to provide TB and HIV care to the most vulnerable populations, and build a partnership between public and non-public sectors to improve access to TB and HIV care by the development of a referral mechanism.

Side Event: Addressing and Reversing the Harms of Drug Control in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Side Event ‘Addressing and Reversing the Harms of Drug Control in Eastern Europe and Central Asia’ was organised by AFEW International, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice, and the International Drug Policy Consortium during the 60th Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in March 2017.

Richard Elliot (Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network): To provide a public health overview. Punitive approaches to drug control in the region are rife. But also resources and energy are devoted to law enforcement, rather than public health. Unbalanced situation. In many countries, criminal provisions impose liability for possession for personal use. Even if there’s no criminal sanction, the administrative penalty is used as a platform for rights abuses. Illegal searches, arbitrary detention. In terms of procedural rights, repeated instances of improper procedures in terms of handling of evidence, inaccurate investigation, inflation of quantities of possession, coercion through violence, fostering/inducing withdrawal to extract confessions. There is a general failure to consider someone’s drug dependence when deciding how to apply the law. The right to health is widely affected. There’s a cruel irony in the fact that the criminalisation of people who use drugs is coupled with lack of access to treatment for dependence. Criminalisation pushes people away from services, which are scarce themselves (OST, ART, NSP) or completely absent. There is a case on Russia’s denial to provide OST before CEDH. This denial violates the provisions on torture, privacy and discrimination of the European Convention on Human Rights. Both the ECOSOC and HRC have expressed concern about Russia’s refusal to offer OST. In prison settings, the situation is even more acute. In some countries, bureaucracies also create barriers to access. Ex.the confluence of multiple health conditions is something that sometimes public health systems in the region are incapable of handling. Beyond this, there’s an issue of access to opiate pain medication. Also, women are disproportionately affected by these policies. For instance, even if WHO guidelines have established OST during pregnancy is viable and advisable, many countries prohibit it; adding gender discrimination to the list of abuses in the name of punitive drug control.  The right to privacy of people who use drugs is also consistently violated, including the release of medical records to the public. What to do? Abolish all criminal and administrative liabilities for possession for personal use of illicit substances. Improve access to legal aid services. Work with law enforcement to reduce punitive and torturous practices. Stronger legal foundation that facilitates access to harm reduction and treatment service. Increase funding. In many domestic legal orders, the constitution stipulates human rights protection; they should be expanded to people who use drugs.

Anya Sarang (Andrey Rylkov Foundation): Russia is probably the epicentre of abysmal drug policy that fuels AIDS epidemic in our region. The HIV epidemic is progressively under control according to WHO. Relatively static numbers for new infections in most regions of the world. But new HIV infections are sharply increasing in our region. Russia has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world. The Federal AIDS Centre in Russia reports every day 300 people get infected with HIV. Everyday 60 people die of AIDS in Russia.  Estimates 3m infected. Official numbers suggest less than 1/3 have access to ART. 10 years ago, 80% of cases were related to injecting drug users. It’s still 55%.  The primary cause of death related to AIDS is tuberculosis. One of the few countries where tuberculosis is still a major killer for people with HIV. Hepatitis also a significant co-morbitidy that adds to the burden of disease. Russia is openly resistant to evidence-based internationally-recommended practices, programmes and treatment. Not only does the government refuses to finance these, it opposes them. The national strategy describes NSP as a threat to the counter-drug strategy. Most international donors left the country. 90% decrease of harm reduction programmes in Russia as a result. From 104 programmes to 16. There is no new sources of support on the horizon. During the 2016, 8 organisations have been included in the list of “foreign agents”, including ours, because we receive foreign funding. It means the organisations cannot receive any money from governmental sources. It is necessary to provide more truthful information to the international community and donors.  We provide support for drug users through outreach services, provide sterile needles and syringes, peer counselling and support, referral to health services. Almost 3000 benefited from our services. 736 lives saved as a result of naloxone distribution. The Street Lawyers programme documents human rights abuses and provides support to access legal services. Strategic litigation cases. The experience of the Foundation and like-minded organisations demonstrate it is still possible to provide services. We are committed to the protection of the rights of our community.

Victor Sannes (Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of the Netherlands): We value a balanced approach between public health and law enforcement efforts. We’ve come to realise there has been a disproportionate accent on the law enforcement aspect. It’s not about choosing between approaches, but combining them. There’s no “one size fits all solution”. A public health approach requires the deployment of a wide range of initiatives: prevention efforts to avoid or delay uptake as much as possible, risk and harm reduction interventions, etc. The basis of this policy lies in the law enforcement policy. The police were fed up in the 1970s, as the country dealt with street heroin use and related challenges. The Dutch government implemented comprehensive harm reduction interventions. And these policies are implemented with the collaboration between institutions and agencies, as well as people who use drugs, is fluid.


Question 1: What can the international community do to improve the quality of life of people who use drugs in Russia?
Anya Sarang:
 We sometimes have a feeling of isolation. Donors say we cannot do anything. It is important to remind GF donors and board, as well as other donors, that there’s still a need and good work being done on the ground. WE have evidence about our direct impact on people’s lives through our distribution of condoms and naloxone.
Richard Elliot: Important to use international mechanisms to keep attention on this situation. Monitoring state compliance with human rights, etc. At CND, underscore slow-motion genocide of people who inject and use drugs. Denying OST despite the evidence of the death that this produces is on a par with extrajudicial executions and the death penalty.

Comment by the Russian representative:

1) The first question should be “what is prohibited and allowed in Russia”? We cannot allow for activities that are not legal in our country. Last year Russia adopted a new national strategy on combating HIV/AIDS epidemic. We hosted Michel Kazatchkine, to visit some cities in Russia. He decided which cities to visit. He examined the new strategy. His opinion is that the situation improved. He will visit Russia again in a couple of years and compare. We are open for discussion on this particular issue.
2) If some activities are prohibited, we do not allow civil society representatives to continue these activities. Each and every country does the same. There is a huge scope of activities with regards to UNODC/WHO HIV Unit Technical Guide that Russia implements. OST is prohibited. We don’t treat drug users with another substance containing drugs. But we use naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, which blocks receptors. It’s a medication, not a drug.
3) We provide people with a whole range of measures on demand reduction and they work.

Richard Elliot
– If you withhold treatment that is evidence-based, and this leads to the death of hundreds of thousands…I think it’s not a mischaracterisation, to say it’s akin to genocide.

Source: CND Blog

EU-Russia Civil Society Forum Invites Young Professionals to Poland

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum invites young professionals aged between 25 and 35 from the EU, Russia, and other European states to apply for the Annual “Europe Lab” Forum.

Forum for Young Professionals “Europe Lab” is a unique communication and exchange platform for change makers from all over Europe working in public administration, business, NGOs, universities, think tanks, and other fields of professional engagement.

Main goals of “Europe Lab” are to enable cross-sector cooperation and promote exchange of ideas, develop partner and professional networks, and encourage common cross-border projects and initiatives all over Europe.

The working language of the Forum is English.

“Europe Lab” will take place on 27–30 July 2017 at the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk, Poland.

The programme of “Europe Lab” 2017 includes:

Workshops:

  • Freedom and Captivity – Solidarity in the Present and in the Past
  • Climate Change – Where Are You Going?

Innovative Formats:

  • Gdańsk in the Spot – City Development Hackathon
  • 360° Story – Multimedia Telling

Each format will be curated by a coordinator.

The best common projects, whose ideas were elaborated during the Forum, will be granted. The results will be presented at the 8th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in 2018.

Finally, “Europe Lab” alumni are invited to join the young professionals’ platform at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, to lead and play a role in a number of future initiatives.

Costs for workshops, accommodation, and meals are covered by organisers. Travel costs are borne by participants themselves.

Please submit your application until 1 May 2017 here.

Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us via e-mail.

Forum for Young Professionals “Europe Lab” is organised by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in cooperation with the European Solidarity Centre as well as supported by the European Commission and the Oak Foundation.

Looking for the Consultant for the Cities TB/HIV Regional Project

LogoAFEW3Consultant for the development of a situation assessment tool in the framework of the Cities TB/HIV Regional project, funded by the Global Fund

It is well known, that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central-Asia is still driven by most affected key populations, which are concentrated in urban areas. On average, the share of representatives of key population among all PLHA is assumed to be up to 70 percent, while the majority of them are PWID (about 80% of all HIV-infected representatives of key populations). Despite the paramount role of key populations in the development of HIV epidemics in the region, reaching them with key services remains low. The overall coverage of essential HIV prevention services of PWID, sex workers (SW) and men having sex with men (MSM) in Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Ukraine is around 40% (at the level of 50% for PWID and SWs and 16% for MSM).

City level data reveals that from about 18,000 PLHA 5,665 are receiving ART, which corresponds with 20% coverage in Almaty, 22% in Beltsi, 29% in Odesa, 54% in Sofia and 82% in Tbilisi. Given the overall low access to ART, access of key populations is assumed to be even lower, but data is largely unavailable. Out of 5 project cities only Almaty and Odesa could provide disaggregated data on ART access by key population.  Similarly, the results of TB and MDR treatment in the 5 project targeted cities are poor, with low treatment success even for new TB cases and relapses, not reaching the targeted 90% (highest in Almaty – 85.4%, lowest in Odessa – 54.2%), while the MDR TB treatment outcome is even worse, from extremely low in Odesa (47.5%) to 69.9% in Almaty.

Three main areas of programmatic/other gaps have been identified as handles for strategy development and interventions in the proposed regional project for selected cities:

  • Programmatic and data gaps: reaching key populations, HIV and TB treatment cascade gaps; low treatment efficiency and effectiveness, increase of MR-TB and repeated treatment cases; slow transition to the patient-oriented model of health care delivery and to out-patient ambulatory care; weak integration between HIV and TB services; gaps in essential city level data.
  • Political, governance, partnership gaps: lack of political will to address health issues in key populations and promote human rights and access to services by these key groups.
  • Financial gaps: sustainability of the HIV/TB responses is a major threat to programs for key populations in EECA.

Aims and objectives of the Cities TB/HIV Regional project

The goal of the project is to develop models of sustainable city responses to HIV and TB in key populations in EECA that significantly contribute to achieving 90-90-90 HIV/TB targets for key populations. The goal is supported by the following four objectives:

  1. Development and implementation of a model for key populations for the ’90-90-90’ targets of the HIV and TB response in selected cities of the EECA region.
  2. Establishing effective partnerships between municipalities and NGOs/CSOs in selected EECA cities.
  3. Ensuring sustainable allocations of municipal funding for key population programs in project cities.
  4. To increase knowledge management and popularize city responses on HIV and TB in cities of the EECA region and globally.

Project will be implemented in 5 cities in 5 countries: Almaty (Kazakhstan), Beltsi (Moldova), Odesa (Ukraine), Sofia (Bulgaria) and Tbilisi (Georgia).

The project is implemented by the Alliance for Public Health (APH) as lead agency, together with AFEW International and Licit.

One of the planned activities is:

Situation Assessment tool development and training on its use

At the beginning of the project, a needs or situation assessment will be carried out in 5 project cities aiming at identifying particular HIV/TB key populations needs, services, data gaps, barriers to access and sustainability of services resourcing.

Terms of Reference:

Job Location:

  • In Europe, Eastern Europe and Central-Asia

Period and duration:

  • Starting date 13 March 2017
  • A first outline of the tool should be ready by 30 March 2017
  • Provide an update of data every 1 week
  • The final version of the tool should be ready by mid-April 2017
  • A training in how to use the assessment tool in the second part of April 2017
  • A workload of 20 working days is expected

Overall Job Objective:

The development of instruments for the assessment with broad consultations with the project partnership and a training provided to implementers on how to use it. Specifically, the assessment addresses improvements in city data systems, availability of population size estimates and their mapping, improvements in city cascade information, HIV, TB, prevention, treatment, health and social integration, human rights of key populations, legal issues, city and country drug policy, accessibility to existing services, existing coordinating bodies and city governance, role and practice of law enforcement, attitudes of media, programs and their resourcing and potential areas for cost optimization.

Description of core responsibilities and tasks:

– collect information and results from assessments done by ECUO’s regional EECA project looking at challenges in transitioning from one stage of cascade to the other
– collect information and results from the situation assessment methodologies on the combinations of services available and the level of funding for interventions within the EHRN regional project
– identify relevant sources for HIV and TB data at national and city level
– consult with the project partners about the relevant topics, the sources and how to do the assessment
–  identify software to be used for mapping the data
– write a comprehensive tool to conduct the assessment
– train contact persons on how to use the assessment tool

Requirements

– Epidemiology and/or research background at university level
– Knowledge about HIV and TB in Eastern Europe and Central-Asia
– Familiar with the governmental and non-governmental landscape in EECA
– Speaking and writing in English and Russian

Contacts/Key Relationships:

–            Project partners
–            AFEW International for reporting and updating

Please, send your application to Anke van Dam’s email: anke_van_dam@AFEW.nl. The deadline is 15 March.

Dutch Students will Learn about HIV in EECA

TV_screen_stillOn March 28, 2017, AFEW International and WEB.foundation are jointly organising the Culture Cures & Kills II symposium  in de Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam. The symposium will focus on the role of culture in prevention, treatment and care of HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA).

The programme is designed with and by students from different fields of study. The aim of the conference is not only to increase students’ awareness about the successes and challenges to address the HIV epidemic in EECA but also to link students to the International AIDS Conference of 2018 in Amsterdam, and explore opportunities for future research.

Students who are based in the Netherlands, can get their free tickets to symposium here. Please, mind that the seating is limited!

You can find the timetable of the symposium here.

You can find the information about the workshops of the symposium here.

Community-based Participatory Researches are Starting

IMG_114226 applications out of 44 were selected in the small grants programme to support community-based participatory research (CBPR) projects in Eastern Europe and Central-Asia (EECA) region. The small grants fund is part of a wider programme to build the research capacity of community based organisations in EECA region and increase meaningful participation of the region at the AIDS2018.  The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides financial support to the programme.

The supported applicants are from 10 countries of the EECA region: Ukraine, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, and Uzbekistan. They represent the following target groups: people who use drugs, people who live with HIV, sex workers, HIV positive women, MSM, transgender people, prisoners, and LGBT.

The total grant fund for the proposals is €230,000. “Previously we announced that the fund was €120,000, but we managed to get more funding and that is how we can afford implementing more projects,” project manager Aids2018EECA in AFEW International Daria Alexeeva is saying.

The grant winners will soon start to implement their researches in their countries. It is expected to have the results of the CBPR in the fall of 2017.

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.

U.S. Government Introduces New Drug to Help Save Lives of TB Patients in Tajikistan

IMG_1729

Source: Asia-Plus

Acting Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States to Tajikistan Lucy Jilka on January, 31 joined the First Deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection of Population of Tajikistan Saida Umarzoda, national health leadership, physicians, TB doctors, and stakeholders to celebrate the introduction of bedaquiline to Tajikistan. This is the first new drug approved for the treatment of tuberculosis (TB) since the 1960s.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, U.S. company Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, created bedaquiline to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis and protect public health. Janssen is donating 30,000 courses of this life-saving new TB drug to qualified countries.  The United States, through USAID’s Office of Global Health, is partnering with Janssen to introduce bedaquiline in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan is on the list of countries with a high prevalence of multi-drug resistant TB, and has growing numbers of patients with extensively drug-resistant TB, for which there was no effective treatment available within the country.  Bedaquiline, also called by its brand name Sirturo, offers a better chance to cure patients with these forms of TB and will help reduce the transmission of drug-resistant tuberculosis in the community.

USAID is leading the free distribution of this lifesaving medication through its Bedaquiline Donation Program in collaboration with Tajikistan’s Republican Center for TB Control, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Population, and other partners to introduce the new drug, build capacity to expand treatment, and pilot new shorter treatment options for drug-resistant tuberculosis.  A key international partner in these efforts is the Challenge TB Project, which is implemented by the Dutch TB Foundation, KNCV.

IMG_1744

Source: Asia-Plus

Bedaquiline received accelerated approval for use in the United States in December 2012, and it is used to treat Americans with drug-resistant TB.  In Tajikistan, per World Health Organization recommendations, fifty patients were initially enrolled in treatment courses containing bedaquiline, with one hundred and fifty more to begin treatment during 2017. The progress of treatment will be monitored by trained specialists at designated treatment centers.

The Challenge TB Project is one of the many assistance projects made possible by the American people through USAID. Over the last 25 years, the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe has provided more than $1.8 billion in programs that support Tajikistan’s security, democratic institutions, social sector, and economic growth.  In February, Tajikistan and America will celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations.

Source: Asia-Plus