Fulfilment of HIV-related sustainability commitments given by the Government of Serbia

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) have published the report Republic of Serbia: Benchmarking Sustainability of the HIV Response in the Context of Transition from donor to domestic funding.

The aim of this analysis is to assess the fulfilment of HIV-related sustainability commitments given by the Government of Serbia in the context of the country’s transition from Global Fund support to national funding and uses the EHRA methodology, Benchmarking Sustainability of the HIV Response in the Context of Transition from Donor Funding which seeks to evaluate the achievement of the commitments by the Serbian Government to ensure the sustainability of HIV programmes. As a part of this study, the government’s commitments have been identified and prioritised and data collected to inform the extent to which those commitments have been fulfilled as planned.

Overall, the Government of the Republic of Serbia has shown moderate progress in fulfilling its transition and sustainability-related commitments. During the assessment, the commitments made by different health system domains have been reviewed, as well as the status of commitments made by different HIV programmatic areas. Out of 6 health system domains, significant progress was achieved in service delivery and human resources; average progress in drugs, supplies and equipment, and in data and information; while moderate progress has been made in health financing; and fairly low progress in governance.

With respect to programmatic areas, significant progress has been made concerning human rights, while substantial progress has been made in the fulfilment of the commitments related to prevention, treatment and support.

This publication was prepared by Maja Stošić, MD, PhD, EHRA Consultant.

The publication was published within the framework of the regional project called “Sustainability of Services for Key Populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” which is carried out by the Alliance for Public Health, in a consortium with the 100% Life (All-Ukrainian Network of PLWH), the Central Asian HIV’ Association and the Eurasian Key Populations Health Network with the aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

To access the report, follow this link>>>.

EHRA will hold a Webinar to present the assessment framework, methodology and results following by the discussion with webinar participants on Thursday 21 September at 14:00 Belgrade time. If interested, please register at  https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAtd-ivrzkqH9xWxSzIjWS3Gbh8n361iNqI.

 

Media coverage on cannabis regulation in Serbia

Statement of the Minister of Health Dr Zlatibor Lončar that Serbia will regulate cannabis in line with the decision of the UN Committee on Narcotic Drugs triggered a lot of attention in the country.

Our Executive Director Milutin Milošević was invited to comment speculations that legalisation of cannabis may benefit those accused in the famous case of production of marijuana in the organic food farm Jovanjica” at the Nova S TV station. The segment from their news is available (in Serbian) following this link>>>.

Milutin was then invited for a talk with Prof Dr Vladimir Kovčin at the cable channel K1 where most of the attention was given to medical benefit of marijuana and possibilities to regulate it in Serbia.

 

735 drug induced deaths in Serbia since 2008

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe held the promotion of the Analysis of the data on drug-induced deaths in Serbia 2008 – 2019 on 10 March 2021 with the support of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia.

The presentation with bilingual data (Serbian and English) is available following this link>>>.

More than 30 representatives of governmental organisations, civil society organisations, media and international organisation from Serbia and other countries participated.

The discussion emphasized the need to better report deaths and analyse the data so that we may better protect people who use drugs from overdose and loosing life.

The Analysis is available following this link>>>.

 

Let’s talk about drugs

Taken from the IDPC webpage

In June-July 2020 Rights Reporter Foundation, YODA, Re Generation, Young Wave and Center for Humane Policy conducted an assessment of drug education in Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, and Serbia based on the methodology developed by EHRA within the LEt’s Talk about drugs – new MEthods of communication with youth – LET ME project funded by the European Commission (ERASMUS+ program). The goal of the study was to assess existing drug education and its effectiveness, look at what information on drugs is available and how it is perceived by young people, examine the methods and tools used by different actors to talk about drugs with youth, and gather best practices.

The stakeholders interviewed—young people and representatives of harm reduction, prevention, and youth organizations—all agree that existing drug education is ineffective and fails to address the needs and patterns of drug use among young people.

The report will be used to design and create the manual, but also for the advocacy activities related to the promotion of prevention and harm reduction services in the youth work.

The reports are available in English and all national languages following this link>>>.

 

Serbia COVID-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment

The UN Country Team in Serbia launched the Socio-economic impact assessment of COVID19 in the country. It is the result of 26 assessments done by all UN agencies working in Serbia and non -resident ones, together with extensive fact finding exercise done jointly with Government.

This assessment provides an in-depth overview of the impact of COVID-19 on key economic and human development perspectives: health, social protection and provision of basic services, jobs and the economy, macroeconomic stability, community cohesion, governance and resilience, and the environment. It is framed around the UN Secretary-General’s framework for an immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19; it promotes more sustainable development and an opportunity to build forward better in the aftermath of the crisis, with an end goal of accelerating achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the “Agenda 2030”).

This report provides a comprehensive overview of COVID19’s impact in Serbia. It captures the situation in the first six months following the outbreak, based on official data and specific surveys conducted by UN agencies and other civil sector research. The report serves to inform the choices we make and actions we take in the coming period. These decisions will determine the outcome of this pandemic and the development of the region for decades to come.

To read the report, follow this link>>>.

 

New Psychoactive Substance use in Eastern Europe

From the EHRA webpage

The phenomenon of new psychoactive substances (NPS) started decades ago with the growth and production of drugs that replicate the effects of controlled drugs (such as amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis and heroin) but avoid legislative control based on different chemical structures.

In recent years, the increasing use of NPS has led to new threats for health of people who use drugs (PWUD) – including overdose, psychotic reactions, high HIV risks due to multiple injections and increased number of sexual contacts. However, in many countries service providers such as harm reduction, drug treatment programs and ambulance services are not prepared to provide PWUD with quality support and counselling to reduce risks of NPS.

In the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) region the situation with NPS is truly alarming and has become one of the major challenges for the national public health systems, local NGOs, communities PWUD.

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) in partnership with School of Law, Swansea University undertook the project “New Psychoactive Substance Use in Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Serbia” to generate a more accurate picture of the use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and to assess harm reduction and law enforcement responses to the emerging issues related to use of NPS. Results from this project will supplement scarce international data on the use of NPS in these countries, present a more accurate picture of their use, and provide information to national civil society organizations (CSOs) for political advocacy.

Irena Molnar, a researcher from the non-governmental organization Re Generation (the only CSO that conducts activities aimed at dealing with NPS in Serbia, DPNSEE member organisation), prepared the report for Serbia, the only country involved in the project from South East Europe. Here is a brief overview of it:

The appearance of NPS in Serbia is not a new phenomenon, but their market share is very small. NPS have been talked about for a whole decade, although scientific research and answers to their appearance in the form of special services aimed at ensuring the health and well-being of users, but also the whole society, have not progressed at all.

Among other things, the report examines in detail the actions taken by the state in the context of this issue and formulates recommendations for improvement. For example, in order to improve the response to problems related to the emergence and use of NPS, greater state involvement is needed in terms of adapting to rapid market changes. This means not only putting substances on the banned list, for which Serbia is very up to date, but also improving the entire system.

To read the reports, follow this link>>>.

 

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.