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

Drug Policy, Diplomacy and Global Public Health Course Offered

Drug Policy, Diplomacy and Global Public Health Course is offered from 24 to 26 October 2017. Course Directors: Professor Michel Kazatchkine and Professor Thomas Zeltner.

Negotiating the health dimension of drug policies

  • Intensive three-day course with renowned faculty and leading practitioners
  • Combine theory and practice through lectures, high-level panels and exercises
  • Meet in the world’s global health capital
  • Organised by the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute, led by Professor Ilona Kickbusch

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem held in April 2016 in New York was a clear demonstration of the growing momentum in favour of drug policy reform. Even though the outcome document raised some promising points, it has been criticised for containing almost no operational outcomes or actions to address the challenges, tensions and contradictions currently existing in international drug control.

Countries are facing challenges due to the horizontal nature of the drug issue that goes far beyond law-enforcement and prohi­bition. Some innovative reforms are already being implemented since the UNGASS 2016. What should the new direction be for the future UN governance of international drug policy? How can different actors contribute to a global process that truly advances laws, policies and international cooperation and finally ensures that drug policies help instead of harming the health and welfare of mankind? How can countries develop a coordinated response, in compliance with international drug control rules, when their ministries of health tend to treat users, while their ministries of interior and justice tend to criminalise them? How can the UN have a meaningful and impactful role in addressing drug policy issues? And what should the role of civil society and user networks be in the international debate on drug policies?

You can find more information about the course here.

Source: Graduate Institute Geneva

Reasons for Drug Policy Reform


Text: Michel Kazatchkine, UN secretary general special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Why is eastern Europe the only region in the world that still has a growing HIV epidemic? In one of the region’s countries, Russia, more than two thirds of all HIV infections, and 55% of the near 100 000 new infections reported last year, resulted from drug injection.

Some 3.2 million people in eastern Europe inject drugs, and about 1.5 million of them are in Russia. In 2007 the number of newly reported HIV cases among Russian people who inject drugs (12 538) was similar to the number in the rest of eastern Europe (12 026). But since then the numbers have diverged hugely.

Scaling up of harm reduction programmes in several countries coincided with a stabilising of HIV rates—and fewer than 7000 new cases outside Russia in 2014. In Russia, however, where access to sterile needles and syringes is low and opioid substitutes remain illegal and unavailable, the number of people who inject drugs newly infected with HIV climbed to nearly 22 500 in 2014.

Criminalisation of drug use

The reasons for Russia’s high figures include the prohibition and effective criminalisation of drug use, repressive law enforcement, and stigma around drug use. These factors lead people to inject in unsafe conditions for fear of police and arrests and result in needle sharing and overdose.

In 2015, the United Nations’ secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, called for “careful rebalancing of the international policy on controlled drugs.”

“We must consider alternatives to criminalisation and incarceration of people who use drugs,” he said. “We should increase the focus on public health, prevention, treatment, and care.”

The World Health Organization, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and UNAIDS jointly recommend a package of harm reduction interventions as best practice to reduce the risk of acquiring, and improve treatment of, HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis among people who inject drugs. Such strategies, which do not require prohibition of harmful behaviours, are key to reducing death and disease because drug dependency is characterised by people’s inability to abstain.

Continue reading here.

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


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.