On September 27th the final conference of the EU funded project HIV Community-Based Testing Practices in Europe (HIV-COBATEST) took place. Cristina Agustí, project manager of HIV-COBATEST and organizer of the final conference reports from Barcelona.
Diversity of participants
Our expectations regarding the conference have been exceeded. Almost 100 people attended the conference. Among the participants were representatives from public health agencies of several European countries, Community Based Voluntary Counselling and Testing (CBVCT) representatives and members of civil society. The results of the project were well received and very interesting discussions were held. At the same time, it was a good opportunity to explore new collaborations with other European initiatives on HIV.
Implementation of CBVCT programmes and increased policy awareness
We are very proud that the HIV-COBATEST project has consolidated the concept of community based testing in Europe. The project has provided detailed information on how CBVCT programmes are being implemented in Europe and it has increased policy awareness on CBVCT in the region. Main results of HIV-COBATEST are:
Best practices documented
establishment of a network to perform community based operational and implementation research. This network counts 59 CBVCT services from 16 European countries;
provision of harmonized data collection instruments and indicators to be used across countries;
suggestions regarding good practices for the implementation of CBVCT services;
introduction of rapid testing in countries where they were not accepted or allowed, as for example in Poland.
We presented the main products developed during the project. The documents are intended to improve the implementation of community screening centres. Furthermore they propose best practices for conducting HIV
testing and counselling as well as for standardizing information collection activities in these centres to strengthen their monitoring and evaluation:
What is next?
The next steps are already taken. A proposal titled Operational knowledge to improve HIV early diagnosis and treatment among vulnerable groups in Europe (EURO HIV-EDAT)
was submitted to the Calls for Health programme 2013 of the European Commission in March this year. The proposal has been very well evaluated and recommended for funding. The final decision will be announced in October and the new project will start in 2014. The main objective of the new project is to generate operational knowledge to better understand the role and impact of CBVCTs across Europe, as well as to study the use of innovative strategies based on new technologies and social networks, to increase early HIV/STI diagnosis and treatment among the most vulnerable groups.
The HIV-COBATEST Project has 10 partners from 8 European countries (Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia) and 21 partners from 19 countries. The general objective of the project is to promote early diagnosis of HIV infection in Europe by improving the implementation and evaluation of community-based testing practices. Main partner is the Centre for Epidemiological Studies on STI/HIV in Catalonia (CEEISCAT).
Cristina Agustí - CEEISCAT
Project manager HIV-COBATEST
Martine de Schutter, executive coordinator of AIDS Action Europe, attended the conference and blogged
about her findings.