TALLINN, ESTONIA (15 November 2013) After Estonia’s Ministry of Social Affairs released a statement Monday explaining the trials behind antiretroviral (ARV) medication provision, upper-level representatives from AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Europe Bureau, from Narva’s Linda Clinic and from the Estonian Network of People Living with HIV say they were surprised by the uncooperative attitude they perceived from the Ministry, and declared the Ministry’s statement to be misleading and inaccurate.
The nongovernmental organization (NGO) and health representatives attest that the minister, in fact, did NOT show up for the meeting, despite an agreement to be present, and without giving notice that he would be absent. The groups also assert that the Ministry’s legal department representative stated that legally, ARVs should be provided to the Linda Clinic, and that the denial was a political decision.
“We are astounded that lifesaving medications are being used as a political tool,” said Zoya Shabarova, Bureau Chief of AHF Europe. ”This shortsighted unwillingness to jointly work on fighting HIV in Narva is also illustrated by the denial of medical licenses to one of our doctors. Officials are turning a blind eye to the shortage of infection specialists in Narva while people living with HIV in Narva face this problem every day.”
Although the Linda Clinic legally received its Estonian license to operate as a healthcare facility on March 21, 2013, the nonprofits say government discussions continue to question that documented fact—instead of focusing on resolving the issue of ART provision. The AIDS groups continue to assert that the Linda Clinic is a provider of sustainable treatment programs and meets all the required standards of quality care.
“The statement from the Ministry’s press release that both parties agreed to a further action plan is not confirmed by us,” said Terri Ford, AHF’s Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy who flew to Estonia from Los Angeles specifically for Monday’s meeting. “We are eager to constructively work together, and to come to an agreement with East-Viru Country region hospitals, but this will not and cannot happen without a full provision of ARV medication for the Linda Clinic.”
“The people living with HIV in Narva need the Linda Clinic, and they need it to have sustainable antiretroviral treatment. AHF, the Linda Clinic and EHPV are ready to continue the battle and see no solution at all based on the meeting of 11 November,” Shabarova added.
For an Estonian version of this article please click here