Press Release: DPNSEE provided input at US PEPFAR

Drug Policy Network South East Europe welcomes U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief’s (PEPFAR) creation of the Investment Fund to Expand Access to Proven HIV Prevention and Treatment Services for Key Populations

Belgrade, August 1st, 2016

Drug Policy Network South East Europe welcomes the announcement by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR, to create a US$100 million investment fund to expand access to HIV prevention and treatment services for key populations including men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who inject drugs, and prisoners). As they are in process of defining the measurement for this new fund, they asked for inputs and comments from stakeholders and partners around the world.

Since political will on the local level in the South East Europe countries is an issue of concern due to economic and ideological factors, international funding for the harm reduction programs and services is indispensable in order to continue existing services and advocate for a strong political commitment of the responsible authorities. The experience of the last year is that after the Global Fund terminated its operations, good operating programs and services have closed and have been significantly reduced. The aforementioned, together with the absence of legal framework for harm reduction in the majority of SEE countries, resulted in reduced service provision in the region.

The chairmen of Drug Policy Network South East Europe Mr Thanasis Apostolou expressed appreciation for the initiative and stated that: «this financial support will be a good contribution to guarantee the continuity and the consolidation of harm reduction programs.”

Repeatedly, vulnerable populations to HIV/AIDS are the same populations that don’t have access to health care because of stigma and discrimination. According to UNAIDS[1], men who have sex with men are 24 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the general population, while sex workers are 10 times more likely and people who inject drugs are 24 times more likely to become infected than the general population. In addition, transgender people are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV and prisoners are five times more likely to be living with HIV than adults in the general population.

In line with recommendations made at the UNGASS 2016 Outcome document DPNSEE member organisations called for equal and direct access of key populations to all the effective measures aimed at minimizing the adverse public health and social consequences of drug abuse and all other relevant interventions that prevent the transmission of HIV towards achieving the goal of ending AIDS by 2030.

The South East Europe Drug Policy Network (DPNSEE) is an initiative of NGOs from the countries of South East Europe that are primarily providers of preventive, therapeutic, harm reduction and rehabilitation services. With this letter DPNSEE wants to submit its input regarding the implementation and planning of the Key Populations Investment Fund.

The Members of the Network that co-signed the letter are: Diogenis – Drug Policy Dialogue in South East Europe, Centre for life and Positive Voice from Greece; Romanian Harm Reduction Network and Aliat from Romania; Association Prevent from Serbia; Association Margina and NGO Viktorija from Bosnia and Herzegovina; Juventas and NGO4Life from Montenegro; Aksion Plus from Albania; HOPS from FYROM; South East European and Adriatic Addiction Network (SEEAN) from Slovenia.