With HIV on the rise and little access to treatment, the need for lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment (ART) in Eastern Europe is growing. According to UNAIDS, between 2001 and 2011, the number of people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia increased from 970,000 to 1.4 million. Despite this only about 25% of people who are eligible for HIV treatment are receiving it.
AHF’s presence in Eastern Europe began in the Ukraine where the Foundation opened its first ART healthcare center in the region in partnership with the local government in 2009. Since then, treatment sites have sprouted across the region and now include over 40 sites in Russia and Ukraine with a new healthcare center to open in Narva, Estonia later this spring. Countries where AHF has supported condom advocacy and distribution are Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Greece and Portugal.
6,505 – Adult clients
104 – Pediatric
I am very proud of our partners in Russia and Ukraine who contributed to this milestone,” said Zoya Shabarova, Chief of AHF’s Europe Bureau. “We will continue to work together with our wonderful partners to make treatment available to everybody and to make high-quality treatment the norm in the region – no matter how challenging it can be.
AHF provides care for 6,505 adults living with HIV/AIDS and 104 pediatric clients in the Ukraine through 23 treatment sites in Vinnystia oblast, Mykolayv oblast, Luhansk oblast, Crimea, Kiev and Odessa.
In Eastern Europe, drug injection fuels the epidemic, as well as onward transmission to the sexual partners of people who inject drugs onward transmission to the sexual partners of people who inject drugs. It is estimated that more than 20% of injection-drug users in Ukraine are thought to be HIV-positive (UNAIDS). There are many challenges to providing HIV/AIDS care in the Ukraine, including resistance to initiating antiretroviral treatment for drug users.
AHF has been working with local partners in Russia since 2010. The focus is on improving access to ART and conducting free, rapid HIV testing in and around the major metropolitan areas of St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. Together with Russian partners AHF has worked hard to overcome the challenges that often stand in the way of access to easy testing and treatment in many parts of the country.
AHF has been operating in Estonia in partnership with the Estonian Network of People Living with HIV since February 2009 conducting rapid HIV testing in outreach settings and harm reduction clinics, distributing free condoms and referring positive clients to healthcare. AHF is active throughout the country in the areas hardest hit by the epidemic, including Tallinn, Narva, Tartu, Kohtla-Järve, Narva-Jõesuu, Pärnu, Jõhvi and Kiviõli.
In 2010, AHF began work in Lithuania through a partnership with Demetra, a HIV/AIDS organization based in Vilnius. Together, AHF and Demetra provide mobile HIV testing for hard-to-reach groups, free condom distribution, social marketing and advocacy on treatment and testing access issues.
AHF’s global operations are headquartered in Amsterdam, where the organization recently opened an Out of the Closet Thrift Store – the first location outside the U.S. – that also provides free HIV testing.