Linda Clinic officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony in Narva, Estonia on November 13, inaugurating a new model of patient-centered HIV care in the smallest Baltic country bordering Russia, and the EU region as a whole.
About 70 participants attended the opening, including AHF leadership, journalists, representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs, UNAIDS, US Embassy, the Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Health, the Vice-Mayor of Narva, Medical Director and key doctors from the Ida-Viru Central Hospital, representatives of the Estonian Network of PLWH (EHPV), European partners, patients and members of the PLWH community.
“This was a four-year struggle that AHF and EHPV did not give up on,” said Terri Ford, Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy at AHF. “We felt strongly that the Narva community needed this new model of care delivery but also that Europe would benefit from it. It can and should be replicated throughout Europe for people living with HIV. The new patient-centered model can be a significant factor in turning back HIV/AIDS in Europe over the next five years.”
The clinic was first conceived as a joint project between AHF and EHPV in 2011, with the aim of reaching high-risk groups with HIV services in Narva, where the population has one of highest rates of infection in the European Union, estimated at 4%.
While Linda Clinic has been operating since 2013, the official opening was postponed until an agreement had been reached between Linda Clinic and the Ida-Viru Central Hospital to allow government procured ARVs to be dispensed at the clinic.
The availability of ARVs at Linda Clinic broadened the services it provides to clients, allowing for an even greater holistic approach to HIV care, which includes testing, treatment and psychosocial services. Currently the clinic has 200 patients in care and this number is expected to grow to 350 next year.
“After initial challenges with getting Linda Clinic off the ground, with regulatory permits, access to ARVs, etc., it seems to be off to a good start after the opening, with support from all stakeholders,” said Zoya Shabarova, AHF Europe Bureau Chief, who attended the opening ceremony. “Thanks to tireless work of our staff members, partners and allies, because of them Linda Clinic is a reality now.”