May 24, 2016

Harm Reduction Training for the National Police in Zaporizhia

On May 21, Alliance for Public Health (Alliance) together with Zaporizhia branch of the Network of PLWH held a training “National Police, Harm Reduction and Human Rights” for officers of the regional unit of the Department for Countering Drug-Related Crime of the National Police of Ukraine of the Main Administration of the National Police in Zaporizhia oblast (covering Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia oblasts).

Alliance in partnership with Law Enforcement and HIV Network (LEAHN) continues conducting educational activities to raise the level of awareness of people working in the National Police on the need to respect human rights of the participants of harm reduction/HIV prevention programs. Earlier, similar training events have already been held in Lviv, Kharkiv and Vinnytsia oblasts.

During the one-day training, the participants were familiarized with national legislation and international recommendations, justifying the need in and the importance of harm reduction and opioid substitution treatment (OST) programs, and also with the important medical components. From Alliance, the training was held by Tamara Tretska, OST Program Manager. The training was also attended by drug treatment doctor Denis Chepelkin; representatives of Zaporizhia office of the Network of PLWH – Director of the organization Ihor Lytvyn, Head of Prevention Programs Halyna Azarova and Head of Advocacy Anna Tulupova.

On the eve of the training, Alliance received a copy of an unlawful official request to disclose personal data of all drug dependent people who are registered in Zakarpattia oblast. Thus, training participants had a chance to review this impudent violation of the current laws in order to prevent similar violations in terms of access to personal data and violation of the rights of drug dependent people, including OST patients. During the intensive discussion, the participants asked a lot of questions on the examples of practical use of the updated regulations, in particular on the delivery of OST drugs based on prescriptions or directly to patients as well as related to storing, transporting and otherwise handling OST drugs. Those questions were answered by trainers and experts.

One of the speakers was the regional representative of the Association of Substitution Treatment Advocates of Ukraine (ASTAU), Denys Korshunov, who spoke about the positive impact of the increased access to OST for drug users on the improvement of the criminal situation in the region.

All the participants received certificates upon training completion.

May 24, 2016

National police illegally collects data of all drug users!

Though the scandalous Head of the Department of Countering Drug-Related Crime of the National Police of Ukraine, Illia Kiva, has already been dismissed, his “innovative” idea to create a “database” of all drug dependent people in Ukraine is still alive and even actively brought into life.

Patient confidentiality? Personal data protection? Presumption of innocence? Apparently, for the National Police these are just empty words, but not the inherent principles of their daily law-enforcement efforts. The society has just started forgetting the “brilliant” idea of Illia Kiva to introduce criminal responsibility for using drugs, so the Department of Countering Drug-Related Crime decided to remind about itself by starting to collect data about all patients of drug treatment clinics “due to the operational needs” to “create a database of individuals who use narcotic drugs for non-medical purposes”. [1]

Since January 2016, the Alliance for Public Health has been receiving information from the regions of Ukraine on the national policemen illegally collecting information about drug dependent individuals, allegedly as instructed by administration of the National Police of Ukraine. Until recently, there were no documented evidence of the existence of such instructions, but our partners on a regular basis informed us about the cases of visits by law enforcers to treatment institutions offering Opioid Substitution Treatment (OST), mass detention of dozens of drug dependent patients right in the territory of such medical institutions, in particular in Sloviansk, Lysychansk and other cities of Ukraine.

But one of these days Alliance got a documented proof of the existence of centralized instructions from the Department of Countering Drug-Related Crime of the National Police to collect personal data of all people registered with drug treatment centers – request of the First Territorial Administration (covering Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Zakarpattia oblasts) of the Department of Countering Drug-Related Crime, reference number 196/40-TU/Z-2016 dated 19.05.2016 to the chief doctor of Zakarpattia oblast drug treatment center.

This fact is an evident proof of the National Police unduly initiating centralized collection of personal information on drug dependent individuals in breach of articles 19 and 32 of the Constitution of Ukraine, articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, article 286 of the Civil Code of Ukraine, articles 7, 19, 24, 25 of the Law of Ukraine “On Protection of Personal Data”, articles 39-1 and 40 of the Law of Ukraine “Fundamentals of Healthcare Legislation of Ukraine”, and articles 7, 8, 25-28 of the Law of Ukraine “On the National Police”.

Such impudent and systematic violation of human rights is intolerable in a law-governed democratic state, which, besides, is declaring rigorous compliance with the strict conditions of personal data protection, stipulated by the Action Plan on Visa Liberalization by European Union for Ukraine.

The Alliance for Public Health would like to draw the attention of all responsible persons – chief law enforcement officers, Ministry of Health, Ombudsman of Ukraine, heads of the special committees of the Supreme Council of Ukraine, other government officials as well as representatives of civil society and media – and today it officially called to immediately intervene with this situation, stop the unlawful collection of information on drug dependent individuals and initiate a complex investigation (criminal proceedings, internal investigations, etc.) based on this fact to avoid such cases in future.

At the same time, Alliance would like to bring to notice of administrations of the treatment facilities, where almost 85,000 drugs users are registered, that disclosure of personal information, in particular containing patients’ confidential data, in response to such unlawful requests is unacceptable.

For information: The Alliance for Public Health as one of co-implementers of the National Targeted Social Program of Combating HIV/AIDS in 2014-2018 approved with the Law of Ukraine No. 1708-VII dd. 20.10.2014 is responsible for implementing HIV prevention programs, which cover over 212,000 drug dependent people in our country, including more than 8,600 patients of Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST).

At the end of 2014, in drug treatment institutions of Ukraine there were 84,739 officially registered individuals with mental and behavioral disorders caused by drug abuse.

[1] Quote from the request of the First Territorial Administration covering Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Zakarpattia oblasts of the Department for Combating Drug Trafficking of theNational Police, reference number 196/40-TU/Z-2016 dated 19.05.2016 to the chief doctor of Zakarpattia oblast drug treatment center.

May 17, 2016

Commemorating People Who Died of AIDS

On Sunday, May 15, Ukraine as well as countries all over the world marked the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day. According to the Ukrainian Center for Socially Dangerous Disease Control of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, 3,032 people died of AIDS in Ukraine in 2015, and 969 – in four months of 2016. Overall, since 1987 AIDS took the lives of 39,426 Ukrainians.

Traditionally, activists gathered at the Red Ribbon Memorial to express their concerns about the current situation in HIVtreatment within the initiative of the All-Ukrainian Network of PLWH. Alliance for Public Health joined the campaign, makinga focus on the urgent need to provide access to treatment for vulnerable populations. Andriy Klepikov, Executive Director of Alliance, pointed out that “unfortunately, though in the recent years we see that due to implementation of HIV prevention programs in vulnerable populations the number of new infections, in particular among people who inject drugs, has been considerably reduced, death rate among the members of this population remains almost unchanged – 45%. First of all, it is caused by the limited access to antiretroviral treatment. For example, an HIV-infected person who injects drugs has muchlower chances to received ART than an ordinary citizen who is in need of such treatment – the share of such patients among those who receive ART is only 12.5%.” According to the official data, as of April 1, 2016 there were 128,455 officially registered patients in Ukraine, with 63,029 (49%) of them receiving ART. Among the drug users, only 7,563 persons were receiving thetherapy as of the end of 2015.

One of the key causes of death among people living with HIV in Ukraine is tuberculosis and the situation with treatment of patients with HIV/TB co-infection remains critical. Only every other patient (56%) has an access to ART. One of the priorities of Alliance is treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis – since 2013, 9,936 patients received such treatment with financial support of the Global Fund. According to the data available, though the incidence of HIV-associated tuberculosishas remained almost unchanged in the recent years (14.5 cases per 100,000 people), the mortality related to co-infection goes down (2,522 cases in 2013 as compared to 1,994 cases in 2014), which is a proof of treatment success. However, thereare big concerns related to the fact that currently most patients rely on donor funding in the procurement of medical drugs – in future this should fall into the competence of the state.

Alliance for Public Health supports its partners’ initiative to appeal to the Prime Minister of Ukraine with a request to takeunder his personal control the question of full funding of the National Targeted Social Program for Countering HIV/AIDSand, in particular, public procurement of vital medicines (for ART, OST, TB treatment, etc.)

Alliance grieves for those who died and, in its turn, tries to do everything possible to finally break the sad death ratestatistics in Ukraine (currently Ukraine accounts for 25% of AIDS-related deaths in Eastern Europe and Central Asia) and to ensure the achievement of global UN targets in response to the epidemic.

May 16, 2016

Alliance congratulates Jamala on her victory in the Eurovision song contest!

Alliance congratulates Jamala on her victory in the Eurovision song contest! It was a great news for us as in November 2013 we had an honor to work with Jamala during our charity campaign “Inspired for Life”, which was aimed at raising private and business funds for the needs of people living with HIV. Following this collaboration, two video clips were produced promoting HIV prevention and anti-stigma messages as well as calling all stakeholders to shape the state policy in HIV prevention to make it a national priority – for their own future.


HIV is not transmitted through friendship

HIV prevention should become a national priority

May 16, 2016

Targets on patients’ enrollment to HCV treatment program were achieved

The first and the second phases of the Project “Scaling up accessible and effective HCV treatment through community-based treatment model for most vulnerable populations in the resource-constrained Ukraine” (hereinafter – the Project) stipulated provision of hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment to 750 patients. As of 1 May 2016, 782 patients received access to HCV treatment in 19 healthcare institutions of Ukraine. Planned indicators of the two phases have been achieved. Meanwhile, enrolment of patients for the second phase of the project is still in progress and it is expected that in May – in the beginning of June about 360 more patients will be enrolled.

The success of innovative treatment is proven by sustained virologic response, which has been achieved by 92% of patients. High treatment outcomes among the members of vulnerable populations is built on the social support of patients throughout their therapy, which is provided thanks to the successful cooperation of non-governmental organizations and healthcare institutions within the implementation of HCV treatment model at the community level.

Characteristics of Project participants are as follows: 84% have HIV-positive status, 96% of them receive ART. 80% of them are people who inject drugs, with 9% of them being OST program clients. 13% of the Project participants had previous treatment failures when using two-component regimens: pegylated interferon + ribavirin.

The list of eligibility criteria of HCV treatment project and the list of healthcare institutions to offer HCV treatment as well as NGOs providing social support to patients may be found here.

Besides, in April two trainings were conducted for doctors and social workers involved into the Project to enhance knowledge and improve skills required for the effective Project implementation. Overall, 45 participants from 17 regions of Ukraine took part in 2 two-day trainings. Participants of the trainings highly praised urgency of the topic, importance of the information received and the skills obtained.

May 12, 2016

The COP/ROP16 review meeting

The COP/ROP16 review meeting took place in Bangkok from 30 April to 2 May 2016. The APH and EKHN representatives participated at the meeting representing Ukrainian stakeholders. The 3 days meeting goals were two-folds:

· Finalize any outstanding issues related to the submitted COP/ROP16 sp that it may be approved by the end of the meeting;

· Engage with key global and local stakeholders – community, multilateral, partner government – on shared innovative implementation solutions.

During the meeting, PEPFAR Ukraine team presented an overview of COP15 implementation using results and related systems with brief data review for prevention program and each 90. Following that, COP16 submission was presented confirming the “right places”, “right things”, “right now” and “right way”, includingstrategies for increasing yield and volume of new cases, budget allocation through program area.

PEPFAR Ukraine team presented also responses to issues identifies in headquarter desk review and proposed resolutions, including:

· approach to measuring milestones for above site level activities;

· proposed scenarios for commodity procurement to reach COP16 targets

· current status and future of the procurements

· short update on treatment optimization.

The meeting last day, Ukrainian team together with headquarter teams continued to work on final resolution of critical issues and actions required to obtain COP16 approval. The session was organized in a way that country (Ukraine) and regional (EKHN) programs together with US government, host country government, multilateral, community and civil society representatives can reflect and discuss how Ukraine will achieve epidemic control using shared implementation solutions. Based on structured discussion the COP16 for Ukraine was approved by the Ambassador Birx.

May 12, 2016

Visit to “Gender and Development” (Azerbaijan)

From the 2nd to the 6th of May in the framework of the “Eastern European regional platform on accelerated action for women, girls and transgender people in the context of HIV/AIDS” a specialist of gender-sensitive programs Iaremenko Kateryna, ICF “Alliance for public health”, visiteda partner organization of Eastern European network on key groups’ health “Gender and Development” (Azerbaijan).

 During the visit the analysis of gender component in the structure and activities of the organization, capacity building plan and strategy plan to improve the access of vulnerable groups to HIV treatment and prevention were made. With a view to further cooperation and development of partnerships there were held meetings with the representative of the WHO Jawahir Suleymanova and chairwoman of Clean World Aid to Women Public Union Mehriban Zeynalova

May 12, 2016

Visits to Russia and Moldova project partner organizations

From April 18 to 28, the Director of the ” Eastern European Regional Platform for Accelerated Action for Women, Girls and Transgender in HIV/AIDS Context” project funded by RCNF conducted a field visit to Russia and Moldova based project partner organizations: Non-Profit Partnership “ESVERO” and Public Association “Union for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Harm Reduction in Moldova (UORN)” respectively.

The non-profit partnership to support public health social prevention programmes ESVERO (NP ESVERO) is a non-governmental organization uniting 39 legal entities and individuals from different regions of the Russian Federation involved in delivery of social prevention services to people using drugs and people living with HIV/AIDS. The main direction of our activity is developing integrated low-threshold services for drug users and other vulnerable groups aimed at prevention of HIV, viral Hepatitis and other harmful diseases, providing access to high-quality drug treatment services, HIV treatment, rehabilitation and resocialization.

UORN has over 10 years of experience of public healthcare programs coordination in Moldova. The association is based in Balti Municipality and has a mission to consolidate and coordinate of all the Union member organizations activity, for the developing and promoting of Harm Reduction strategies as an effective Public Health Care in Moldova.

The goals of the visits to the Russian and Moldavian partner organization were four – fold:

1. To get know about the partner organization Board, Staff, structure and key areas of the strategic programs.

2. To raise the RCNF funded project information and visibility both among the ESVERO / UORN membership and civil society/ community in Russia.

3. To conduct an internal assessment of the gender components, gender based approach and gender equality in ESVERO / UORN decision making bodies, programming, implementation, monitoring and evaluation systems.

4. To develop a set of recommendations to sharpen gender equality within decision making procedures and to improve gender based approach in ESVERO / UORN strategic development.

ESVERO and UORN strategy and programs assessment was conducted using a Gender Assessment Tool elaborated to get information on the organization 4 aspects: capacity, culture, accountability and political will. Representatives of the Board, Staff (top management, administrative, technical and supporting) participated in the assessment to ensure the holistic results of the outcomes. Based on the average scores, the set of recommendations was developed for all the 4 aspects and together with ESVERO and UORN management agreed time and responsibilities for the implementation if the recommendations. The Project National Coordinator Ms. E. Romanyak said “The idea to conduct a comprehensive assessment on our organization capacities and skillswas very timely and the outcome will help us to integrate gender based approaches in all steps of our organization undertakings starting from planning and ending by a follow-up planning”.

In framework of the visit to Russia, the project director and project national coordinator visited 2 organization providing services for girls and woman- E.V.A and working with TG – “Transgender” Foundation. These visits had an initiative to boost a cooperation between ESVERO and E.V.A. / “Transgender” Foundation as an community based organizations, as well as to get general overview about the situation of the girls, woman and TG in Russia in terms of the access to the HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programs and public healthcare in general.

In Moldova, the team visited one of the partner organization based in Chisinau and providing services for girls and woman- Mothers for Life. The visit had an initiative to boost a cooperation between UORN and MfL as an community based organization, as well as to get general overview about the situation of the girls, woman and TG in Moldova in terms of the access to the HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programs and public healthcare in general. During the visit round-up, the UORN Board member and the Director of Falesti District Hospital of the MoH of Moldova, Mr. I. Osoianu said: “The project initiative to tackle the gender equality issues into HIV/AIDS programs will help our organization to become one of the leading advocates in overcoming existing barriers in achieving the goal90/90/90 in Moldova”.

The project team met also with the representatives of WHO office in Moldova and agreed to get a legal copyright for the translation and using of the WHO document “Transgender Policy Brief” into Romanian language. WHO office agreed also to print the document in several copies for our project partners which is good start of the collaboration between the project and UN agencies.

April 29, 2016

High-level meeting in Copenhagen

During 26-28 April 2016 the intercountry high level meeting on health systems strengthening for enhanced tuberculosis prevention and care: Regional Eastern European and Central Asian Project (TB-REP) is taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark. This meeting is jointly organized by WHO/Europe and the Global Fund to Fight TB, HIV/AIDS and Malaria, and involves other project partners and supporters such as the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The meeting gathered decision-makers from 11 countries of EECA region. On the first day of the meeting the stakeholders received information about the project and the strategic benefits for countries, as well as an understanding of the vital importance of high-level political commitment. The second and third days will address technical aspects of the project, including health financing, TB prevention and care service delivery, and human resources’ development.

ICF “Alliance for Public Health” is a Partner of the TB-REP project which acts on behalf of the TB Europe Coalition in coordinating the high level advocacy efforts with the grass root advocacy of the CSOs in the EECA countries of the TB-REP. Alliance for Public Health at this intercountry high level meeting represented by Director of the Treatment Procurement and Supply Management Department, Dr. Sergii Filippovych, and Manager on TB advocacy, Yuliya Chorna.

Ukrainian delegation includes also representatives of Ministry of Health of Ukraine, namely Deputy Health Minister, Dr. Ihor Perehinets, Director of the Department of Public Health, Dr. Svitlana Ostashko, Deputy Head of the International Department, Ms. Olesia Tsykaliuk.
Read more about meeting objectives, Tuberculosis action plan here