Drug-related infectious diseases in Europe

Excerpts from the EMCDDA press release

Testing for drug-related infectious diseases among people who inject drugs (PWID) is crucial if international health targets are to be met. This is among the conclusions of a new EMCDDA report Drug-related infectious diseases in Europe. The update, from the agency’s drug-related infectious disease network, stresses that early diagnosis through testing, and improving links to treatment and care, are crucial steps towards reaching global health goals.

Launched during European Testing Week (15–22 May), the report offers an overview of drug-related infectious diseases among PWID in Europe, including the prevalence and incidence of HIV and viral hepatitis. It also tracks progress on health targets and showcases successfully implemented evidence-based interventions. It underlines the need to ramp up prevention and testing and signals that European countries are lagging behind when it comes to treating hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV among PWID.

HIV and chronic viral hepatitis are highly prevalent among people who inject drugs, being transmitted through the sharing of injecting equipment, such as needles and syringes. Addressing the needs of this group is critical to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Good Health and Well-being (SDG 3), which calls for ending the AIDS epidemic and combatting viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 (SDG 3.3).

Besides data which include SEE countries which are EU members, there is a small update from neighbouring countries within the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance 7 and EU4Monitoring Drugs project:

The Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) 7 technical cooperation project comprises six beneficiary countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo (1), Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. Data on PWID and other key populations in the region are available from RDS seroprevalence studies: Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia have conducted such surveys in the past 3 years; Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia are planning to collect data in 2020. There were no HIV-positive cases among PWID in recent surveys conducted in Kosovo or North Macedonia (Mikikj, 2017); older HIV prevalence estimates among PWID ranged between 0 % in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015 (Skocibusic et al., 2016) to 2 % in Serbia in 2013 (IPH Serbia, 2013). Most recent HCV infection prevalence estimates ranged from 23.8 % in Kosovo to 72 % in North Macedonia. All six beneficiaries are signatories of the Dublin Declaration.

To read full report, follow this link>>>

 

COVID-19 crisis’ Impact on PLHIV and on Communities Most Affected by HIV

Concerns have been raised about the various implications the COVID-19 pandemic can have for people living with HIV and different communities affected by HIV, as well as for healthcare systems. There are also opportunities and solutions to be found. The European AIDS Treatment Group, as a network of people living with and affected by HIV and partners in Europe and Central Asia, supports community reporting and exchange between members and partners to support mutual learning and advocacy at local or European levels.

This rapid assessment aims to document in a structured manner the perceptions of people living with and affected by HIV and that of organisations providing services to affected communities about the way in which COVID-19 impacts their health, well-being and access to HIV related prevention, treatment and care. This assessment has its limitations and biases (little time to develop the tool, questionnaire only available online and only in English, limited time the survey was open). Nonetheless, this rapid assessment provides a snapshot of information, concerns and solutions shared by respondents in several countries during the week of 27 March to 3 April 2020.

Respondents include those from Romania, Albania, Slovenia and Greece.

The rapid assessment is available following this link>>>

 

Global Fund allocation of additional funding

The Global Fund Board has approved in February additional funding for portfolio optimization, funded from the Register of Unfunded Quality Demand (UQD), in the amounts of 135.666,553 USD and 25.693.664 €, for 28 grants in 23 countries. The funds come from 650 million USD approved by the Audit and Finance Committee for portfolio optimization to fund high-impact interventions from the Register of Unfunded Quality Demand, linked to grants in the 2017 – 2019 funding cycle. The additional amounts will be integrated into the 28 existing grants through grant revisions that increase each grant’s upper-ceiling amount.

Also, The Global Fund Board has approved the Secretariat’s recommendation to allocate 43,3 million USD in additional funding to several countries and grants including Kosovo (HIV/AIDS). These additional funds come mostly from unutilized funds within grants, often because of countries’ lower-than anticipated rate of funds’ absorption. In addition to previously approved program budget of 1.445.502 €, recommended additional funding is for 112.010 €.

The additional 112,010 will support Kosovo’s HIV grant, specifically activities to reduce human rights-related barriers to HIV services, community responses, and systems for social mobilization, building community linkages, collaboration, and coordination. These funds will also pay for capacity building for community health workers.

The Principal Recipient for Kosovo is the Community Development Fund.

Chase the virus – Call for national partners

Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) is looking for national partners (country consortia, NGOs, community organizations and initiative groups) to develop and implement 4 national campaigns under the branding of “Chase the virus, not people!” in countries of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region.

Aim of the campaign is to strengthen the voice and influence of national activists at the national level in articulating their advocacy priorities and drawing the attention of target audiences to the problems of key populations in relation to the catastrophic HIV/AIDS epidemic in the EECA region, in particular the impact of stigma, discrimination and criminalization on effective response measures to HIV/AIDS epidemic and mortality reduction.

EHRA is issuing 4 grants to the winners in the open competition (NGO, community organization or initiative groups, which are officially registered or have financial agents).

To get full information on this call, follow this link>>>

Radian – a new fund to meaningfully address new HIV infections

To address the challenges in EECA and ensure no one is left behind in the global effort to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Gilead Sciences have partnered together in a ground-breaking initiative called RADIAN. RADIAN aims to meaningfully address new HIV infections and deaths from AIDS related illnesses in EECA through focussed action, investment and resourcing to improve the quality of prevention and care for people at risk of or living with HIV in the region.

The RADIAN ‘Unmet Need’ fund will support local initiatives across the EECA region. Initiatives selected will focus on prevention and care, education, community empowerment, and novel partnerships. The programme will be implemented locally, working with key stakeholders and partners.

The grant will support two grant types:

  • Breaking barriers: Innovating healthcare delivery
  • Building bridges: Community involvement and education

The Fund is welcoming concept notes for evidence-informed solutions implementing in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, or Uzbekistan. The Fund welcomes concept notes for multi-country projects.

The projects should last under 36 months. Applications are accepted until 15 December 2019. Projects are expected to start from July 2020.

More about the grant is available following this link >>>

Too bad politics and prejudice keep getting in the way

Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

DPNSEE Board member Marios Atzemis contributed to the article

“We know how to end AIDS”, published by Politico

Greece was never known for the quality of its health system. But in 2009, at least among drug users, HIV was not a major threat – just 15 were diagnosed with the virus that year.

Then came the financial crisis and the harsh austerity that followed. In 2011, another 256 drug users learned they had HIV. In 2012, the number was 484. The reason for the explosion: the Greek financial crisis and the harsh austerity measures that followed.

Marios Atzemis was one of the Greek drug users diagnosed with HIV in 2011. He had been addicted to heroin and a regular in Athens’ open-air drug markets well before the crisis. Then in 2010, street services to help drug users stay safe lost a third of their funding. Atzemis stopped seeing the vans that used to distribute fresh syringes, even as new users were entering the scene, shooting newer, cheaper drugs.

As a community of drug users, we didn’t have an effective means of defense,” said Atzemis, now a harm-reduction coordinator with the Association of People Living with HIV Greece Positive Voice) “It was very easy for us to be targeted and to be scapegoats.”

The doctor refused to put him on anti-AIDS antiretroviral medication until he got clean at a rehab clinic – even though the clinic was on the brink of being shut down for lack of funding.

For Atzemis, now 44, this was enough motivation to wean himself off the drugs. “It didn’t work the same for other people,” he said.

For better or worse, Greece shows that a country doesn’t need to fix its entire health system to deal with HIV. As a case in point, its progress on AIDS hasn’t translated into progress on correlated problems like hepatitis C. Those rates rose during the debt crisis and haven’t ebbed much; based on 2017 data, around 62 percent of drug users in Greece have tested positive for hepatitis C.

The crisis-era HIV outbreak marked “the first time that all the stakeholders – NGOs, state structures, every single one – worked together to face this epidemic,” said Atzemis. “And probably the last time.”

To read full article, follow this link>>>

Global Fund Replenishment Conference FAQ

The Global Fund Replenishment Conference that takes place every 3 years. The aim of the conference is to raise funds and mobilize partners in the fight to end AIDS, TB and malaria.

The sixth Replenishment conference will take place on October 10 in Lyon, France at Palais des congrès de Lyon. This is the first time France (the second largest donor to the Fund) is playing host.

The target for the Sixth Replenishment Conference is to collect 14 billion USD over the next 3 years. This is an ambitious target, but the funds would save 16 million lives and prevent 234 million new infections between 2021 and 2023.

If you want to know more, read the FAQ webpage created by RED following this link>>>.

Medicines Shortage Survey

The EU Civil Society Forum on HIV, TB and Hep working group on access to medicines is inviting you to contribute to a short survey on medicines shortages for the treatment of hepatitis B&C, HIV, TB and OST in 2019. The deadline for contribution is 27 June 23:59 CET.

The data collected and summarized will be used in a meeting with the European Commission with other civil society partners on 1 July 2019 to back a request for an investigation into the causes of shortages in order to improve understanding of the situations and possible solutions.

The survey is not limited to EU countries.

Please, fill in the survey here>>>

People before politics

Ahead of the 26th Harm Reduction International conference, Harm Reduction International has launched a Call to Action on harm reduction funding and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria 6th replenishment.

Funding and political support for harm reduction is in crisis in many countries around the world. Harm reduction is evidence-based, cost effective and has a positive impact on individual and community health. While harm reduction is far broader than HIV prevention, this call to action centres on galvanising urgent action to secure a strong 6th replenishment of the Global Fund, in recognition of the significant impact of HIV and TB on people who use drugs.

The Global Fund aims to raise at least US$14 billion at its 6th replenishment, which will be invested from 2020-22. We believe that more funding is required and support the call of the Global Fund Advocates Network (GFAN) for a replenishment of $18 billion. This will enable the Global Fund to step up the fight to end HIV, TB and malaria, and we urge Global Fund donors to be ambitious in their pledges. A strong and fully-funded Global Fund is vital to the harm reduction response and to delivering on government commitments to end AIDS by 2030.

The Call is on

  • Governments, philanthropic donors and the private sector to step up and fully fund the Global Fund, to make ambitious pledges to ensure the US$18 billion target is reached.
  • Governments to put “People before politics” and ensure that people who use drugs are not left behind in the fight to end AIDS by 2030
  • The Global Fund Board to safeguard catalytic investment funds, regardless of replenishment outcome, in order to sustain life-saving services for people who inject drugs and to incentivise domestic investment in harm reduction.

You can read the Call to Action following this link>>>

You can add your organisation’s name to this call to action via the form here>>>

You can share the Call to Action with your networks/other organisations and on social media, using this tweet