Candlelight Memorial in Serbia

The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, coordinated by the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+), is one of the world’s oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness in the world. Started in 1983, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial takes place every third Sunday in May and is led by a coalition of community organizations in many countries.

The Candlelight Memorial serves as a community mobilization campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS. With 38 million people living with HIV today, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial serves as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination and giving hope to new generations.

Due to extraordinary situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Union of people living with HIV in Serbia held the Memorial on Saturday 30 May. The community members, friends, civil society activists and health institution representatives gathered in the premises of the organisation Philanthropy. We sent our thoughts and prayers to those who died of AIDS, lighted candles over the large red ribbon sign and released red balloons with messages of support for those who live with HIV.

Philanthropy prepared packages with food and hygienic materials for PLHIV in hard living conditions. Priority was given to students, unemployed, people with disability, those with severe medical problems and pensioners with monthly pensions lower than 30.000 RSD (approximately 250 EUR).

Protective material for vulnerable groups

The Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia obtained funds for protective material against coronavirus intended for vulnerable social groups.

Milan Pekić, the Director of the Office, handed out aid packages to representatives of civil society organizations that provide services for prevention, rehabilitation and resocialization of people with drug use disorder on 19 May. Taking into account the circumstances in which they find themselves, as well as the measures prescribed by the medical institutions, the representatives of these organizations received masks, gloves and disinfectants.

The Office for Combating Drugs, as a service of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, tried not to forget the members of endangered categories of citizens in this serious situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. They must not remain on the margins of the society in this situations. In accordance with the recommendations of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, we have tried to provide the necessary assistance to those who need it the most, and these are certainly vulnerable groups in the society, including people with drug use disorder. The material was provided to civil society organizations that are in direct contact with over 400 members of vulnerable categories” said the Director of the Office.

Duga active both locally and wider

Our member organisation Duga supports vulnerable populations in their municipality Šabac, but their outreach team is, as usual, active around Serbia.

During first days of the epidemic in Serbia, team of the Association Duga from Šabac, Serbia, visited suburbs with Roma populations and various vulnerable populations to inform them about preventive measures against coronavirus. They dedicated special attention to those who recently returned from the areas with high epidemics – Italy, Germany and Austria – who either came to visit their families back home or returned from seasonal work (especially sex workers).

This action was supported by the Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the West Balkans (ReLOaD), financed by the European Union and implemented by the UNDP Office in Serbia.

The extraordinary situation with coronavirus haven’t prevented Duga outreach team to continue HIV testing in cities around Serbia. On 9 April they have tested interested people in Kragujevac, Central Serbia, while the day after they went to Novi Sad in the Northern province of Vojvodina.

DPNSEE provided Duga with an amount of hygienic material, masks and food for vulnerable populations in their municipality. Duga also managed to get bread as donation from the organisation Human Heart of Šabac.

The Duga team, together with assistant of the Roma coordinator of the city of Šabac Sanja Petrović, distributed 122 humanitarian packages to 251 people in villages of Petlovača, Cerovac, MIšar, Letnjikovac, Pocerski Pričinović, Majur, Varna, Pocerski Metković, Bogosavac, Lipolist and the city of Šabac on 14 and 15 April.

Philanthropy is opening an urgent shelter

Our newest member organisation Philanthropy, in collaboration with the City of Kragujevac, Serbia and the local Centre for Social Work, is opening the urgent shelter for socially vulnerable homeless people in Kragujevac. This service will enable protection of beneficiaries’ health well-being and prevent COVID-19 spreading. Urgent shelter will be provided based on the referrals submitted by the Centre for Social Welfare, according to the Law on Social Protection.

The project for opening the shelter for homeless people was developed for some time and completed just now, at the outbreak of the coronavirus. That helped the local community to offer home to some of those who were in jeopardy now when elderly people, especially those who are in pensioners homes, are in a high risk category.

DPNSEE managed to provide Philanthropy with an amount of hygienic material, masks and clothes for users of their centre.

 

Instructions on coronavirus in Serbian

Together with our member organisations Prevent and Re Generation, DPNSEE have prepared information and instructions for protection against coronavirus in Serbian for people in risk from vulnerable populations we support. We used several sources: INPUD, Leafly, Crew and BesD.

The instructions are printed in 500 – 2.000 copies to share to the key populations.

These instructions will be available in various institutions and civil society organisations in Serbia. We expect that they will be adjusted to local languages in some other countries of South East Europe.

General harm reduction tips for people who use drugs
General prevention measures against coronavirus COVID-19
Instructions for people who take drugs snorting
Instructions for people who use cannabis
Instructions for people who go clubbing
Instructions for sex workers

Together against coronavirus

On the initiative from civil society organisations, following the DPNSEE Public appeal to protect vulnerable groups from coronavirus COVID-19, a meeting was called by the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Republic of Serbia to discuss the measures to protect people who use drugs and other connected vulnerable groups. The meeting was held on 13 March with representatives of the Office, Ministry of Health, Special Hospital for Addictions and four civil society organisations.

All participants agreed that vulnerable groups need to be supported for their personal and protection of the entire society. Conclusions include

  • By noon on Monday 16 all service providers will send estimations of their needs for materials they need to protect the key populations they serve and their staff. The Office for Combating Drugs will collect them and send a joint request to the Ministry of social affairs. Once they are provided, they will be distributed to the organisations.
  • The Office will also request for an information about the needs of the shelters for children, young people and elderly and try to organise support to them.
  • Funds for the additional support will be requested from the project supported by the Global Fund and Ministry of Health, at least for the staff supporting the key affected populations.
  • Civil society organisations are preparing specific instructions for people who use drugs and other vulnerable populations and share them both through social networks and printed materials.

 

DPNSEE General Assembly and SEE dialogue on drugs 2020

The regular annual DPNSEE General Assembly will be held on 20 February 2020 in Belgrade. The key topic of the Assembly will be finalising the strategic plan of the Network. The Assembly will include usual agenda point on reporting and planning the work in 2020.

Following the success of the first dialogue between national authorities and civil society organisations held in 2018, the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and Drug Policy Network South East Europe organize the second meeting of national authorities responsible for drug policy and civil society organisations from South East Europe. The meeting will be held on Friday 21 February 2020 in Belgrade, in the Palace of Serbia.

The aim of the meeting is to discuss about issues of importance for drug policy and reflect on the cooperation between authorities and civil society organisations at the national and regional level and perspectives of future cooperation.

The key topics for this meeting will be:

  1. Decriminalisation of drug consumption and possession for personal use – challenges and experiences
  2. Role of civil society in drug policy

Governmental representatives and civil society organisations from Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia will have an opportunity to hear results from decriminalisation processes in Italy, Portugal and The Netherlands, discuss pros and cons for drug decriminalisation in countries of the South East Europe region, share their experiences and examples of successful inter-sectorial cooperation and propose recommendations for improvements.

Representatives of ministries of health, justice, social services and interior of the Government of Serbia, Directorate of Police, Republic Public Prosecutor, Office for Supporting Civil Society, other civil society organisations, embassies, and international organisations are also invited to the meeting.

 

Drug misconceptions in Serbia and in the world

DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević had a long interview for Talas – Serbia based media portal “about politics, economy and ideas”. That was an exceptional opportunity for a long and comprehensive presentation of an open and active approach the Network has on drug policy.

The issues involved included:

  • What are the biggest misconceptions about drugs that exist in public?
  • How do laws regulate drugs in Serbia? Which changes are needed?
  • Does the current “War on drugs” produce results and what are the alternative approaches?
  • What does the application of the law look like in this field?
  • What is the principle of opportunity and how often is it used?
  • What is the principle of harm reduction?
  • How dangerous is the stigmatization of users and how do we deal with it?
  • What does rehabilitation look like in Serbia?
  • Is marijuana legalization an economic opportunity for Serbia?

The interview, unfortunately only in Serbia, is available here

Terms of reference for technical consultant to support field data collection on NPS in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Serbia

EHRAIn the framework of project “New Psychoactive Substance Use in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and SerbiaEurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) is seeking to engage technical consultants, one consultant per country, for conducting research on new psychoactive substances (hereinafter – NPS) use in the four countries. This research project is a collaboration between EHRA and the the School of Law, Swansea University, UK.

The assessment is aimed to analyze existing evidence and documents to overview the

  1. existing statistics/data on NPS use from various sources,
  2. researches of patterns of use and procurement of NPS (via clubs, darknet, etc),
  3. existing algorithms of ambulance and police actions, and
  4. availability of harm reduction services for NPS users, and how existing services needs to adapt to meet the needs created by NPS in four countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Serbia. This research will be conducted using the same methodology as one, done already in Moldova and Belarus.

The potential candidates should:

  • collect national data sources (such as website links, documents (in word, pdf formats), presentations and other materials) on NPS (documents and research data on drug use, behavior and harm reduction services, existing laws on health and drug policy). If documents are in national language – to make summary of the document with main quotes and translate it into English or Russian;
    to organize the field data collection:
  • recruit respondents from community of people who use drugs for focus-groups;
  • arrange interviews with officials from law enforcement and health services, harm reduction services (list of needed interviewees will be agreed with EHRA);
  • according the collected national sources on NPS use, together with EHRA staff member to adjust questionnaire for interviews/ focus groups;
  • organize logistics for the interviews/ focus-groups (place, time, coffee breaks for focus-group participants);
  • make notes during interviews and focus-groups;
  • make transcripts of the focus group discussion and interviews (in Russian or English);
  • help EHRA staff member to validate data of the report prepared by EHRA with respondents.

Soft copies of all collected data and minutes of interviews should be shared with EHRA via DropBox or GoogleDrive. In case of using quotes from individuals, the consultant must have a signed informed consent from each interviewee.

The candidates are invited to submit their CV and letter of interest with suggested respondents list, and state the daily rate in EUR (should be provided in EHRA’s template) by e-mail referenced under title “Technical Consultant” to Eliza Kurcevic at eliza@harmreductioneurasia.org by 5th January 2020, 24:00 EET. Results will be announced by January 10th, 2020. Each candidate will be contacted individually.

For more information about the Association and specifics of the work follow this link.

 

Visit to the Special Prison Hospital

Photo: Ministry of Justice of Serbia

DPNSEE Vice-President Nebojša Đurasović and Executive Director Milutin Milošević visited the Belgrade Special Prison Hospital for a meeting with the director Dr Dragoljub Paunović and Dr Olivera Matijašević.

The Special Prison Hospital houses and treats both convicts with illnesses and persons with an imposed mandatory measure of substance and alcohol abuse treatment. The hospital currently hosts 778 patients to whom a complete healthcare (except operations) and medicines are offered by 303 doctors and other staff. It is the only prison hospital supporting 28 prisons in the country.

Besides sharing about activities on both sides, we discussed opportunities for cooperation on a variety of issues including state of drug use and recovery, HIV and Hepatitis C, opioid substitution therapy, testing for blood borne diseases, support in the pre-release from prison process, training and information sharing with medical staff and prisoners, etc.