After three years of advocating and negotiating for access to anti-retroviral (ARV) medications for Linda Clinic in Narva, Estonia, AHF in partnership with the Estonian Network of People Living with HIV (EPHV) came to a positive agreement with the Estonian government officials in a life-affirming collaboration.
On August 18, officials from the Linda Clinic and Ida-Viru Central Hospital, the region’s leading health care service provider, signed a universal cooperation agreement, which has been endorsed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the medical community.
“Linda Clinic in Narva is a shining example of fighting for what’s right and not giving up,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein.
The agreement partially integrates the privately run Linda Clinic with the Estonian national health care system. Now, Linda Clinic’s patients will have access to comprehensive HIV services, including antiretroviral drugs on the clinic’s premises, instead of having to travel to a hospital.
This model of cooperation and HIV health care deliver is one of the first of its kind in the European Union. Linda Clinic aims to become one of the international reference centers for such services, which is recommended by the UNAIDS and WHO and is now supported by the Government of Estonia.
The clinic is situated in the city of Narva in North-East Estonia on the European Union border. The population of the municipality has one of highest rates of HIV infection in the EU, estimated at as high as 4%. Establishment of Linda Clinic in Narva allows direct provision of life-saving treatment to people who need it.
“We listened to the people of Narva, who asked for a clinic like Linda,” said Terri Ford, AHF Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy. “This collaborative victory will have a transformative affect on how HIV care is delivered in Europe. In the global fight on AIDS, the focus is usually on the developing countries, but there are still major gaps in Europe that need to be addressed if we are to get AIDS under control – Linda Clinic is a big step in that direction.”
AHF Europe Bureau Chief Zoya Shabarova congratulated everyone involved in this important development.
“We applaud Estonia for supporting this innovative clinic, which inspires and presents the best practices on comprehensive community-based and client centered prevention, testing, care and treatment services,” Shabarova said. “As with most of the innovative models, the advocating for its implementation was challenging, but now all stakeholders are united in their celebration of this wonderful joint achievement!”
On behalf of people living with HIV in Estonia, Director of EPHV Latsin Alijev said, “Linda Clinic will help clients from the key affected populations to receive services in a stigma-free environment, overcome challenges related to linkage to care and retention, and as a result contribute to the control of HIV epidemic in Estonia”.
Linda Clinic is opening a new chapter is its history and Head of the Linda HIV Foundation Management Board, Anna Zakowicz is looking with optimism into the future of Linda Clinic: “The next goals for Linda Clinic now are to scale up targeted testing, ensure continuum of care, provision of treatment and retention. I dream that in a few years the clinic can serve as a user-driven model of HIV care that can be shared and used in other countries.”
Linda Clinic is planning to celebrate this achievement together with the national stakeholders, medical community, supporters and guests during the official opening ceremony in November.