Highlights of the European Civil Society Forum booth at the AIDS Conference 2018
The Global Village, an open space and accessible for everyone during the conference, has presented the work of networks, organisations and other community groups of PLHIV and key affected populations from all over the world. This area was dedicated to people who work on the ground at the community level, activists and others. They presented their work and implemented activities on harm reduction, HIV/AIDS prevention, they also organised different educational games and round table discussions.
AAE together with the European AIDS Treatment Group, have co-organised the European Civil Society Forum booth 618 in the Global Village. Our aim was to give our partners and members the opportunity to connect and exchange their work. The programme consisted of key speeches by representatives of the European Commission, the WHO, NGO Delegates to the UNAIDS PCB and key stakeholders from NGOs and communities to present their good practice examples of collaboration with GOs.
HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR BOOTH PROGRAMME:
- John F. Ryan Director (Public Health, Country Knowledge, Crisis Management), Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety at the European Commission, introduced the internal Commission Staff Working Document on Combatting HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis in the European Union and neighbouring countries, which says that with the global objective of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) the European Commission aim to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases by 2030. However, the aim of this goal is to achieve universal health coverage, and provide access to safe and affordable medicines and vaccines for all. Supporting research and development for vaccines is an essential part of this process as well. Findings and outcomes of European Commissions’ Joint Actions, like HA-REACT, and other initiatives will be implemented into new actions and covered by the European Social Fund+ (ESF+), which will be the main EU financial instrument to invest across the European Union. The priorities of the ESF+ will be more closely aligned with the recommendations and country analysis provided under the European Semester of policy coordination, and they will be geared towards making the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights a reality on the ground. Furthermore, for the 2021-2027 period, the Commission proposes to allocate €101.2 billion in current prices from the EU budget to the ESF+. Hence, the share of the European Social Fund Plus from the overall Cohesion Policy budget would increase from the current actual share of 23% of the Structural Funds to 27%.
Civil Society has been critical both with the procedure of the development of the Staff Working Document and with the decreasing interest in HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases of the European Union, which manifests in the lack of ability to create a binding legislation or policy document. Although the importance of the role of civil society and communities in combating HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases have been emphasized by relevant EU institutions and also in the independent review of the previous EU Health Programme, civil society is experiencing an ever shrinking space where our input and reporting capacities are not given a proper recognition or are being ignored.
- NGOs are a key stakeholder to work with Government Organisations and Communities to increase the uptake of PrEP supported by achievements in France, Portugal and Switzerland. Three good practices on promoting PrEP in Europe were presented by Coline Mey, AIDES, France, Ricardo Fernandes, GAT, Portugal and Andreas Lehner, AIDS-Hilfe Schweiz, Switzerland.
- Together with Sophie Auejan we discussed how HIV organisations and LGBTI+ organisations could better cooperate in order to tackle stigma as well as to improve health of communities.
- Kate McGrew, director of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, reminded us that “nothing for us without us” should also count in sex workers and their rights.
- Susan Donlon from HIV Ireland presented data from national survey on National HIV Knowledge and Attitudes 2017 and survey on People Living with HIV Stigma 2017. The data was presented also in comparison with a telephone-based survey on Attitudes to HIV in Ireland that was conducted in 2007. Even though the situation has changed and improved, HIV stigma remains a reality in Ireland. For example, even though in 2017 majority of PLHIV had disclosed their status to partners and close friends compared to 75% in 2007 who had none or limited disclosure, majority of people had limited disclosure to extended family, colleagues and wider circles of friends. Download full presentation here.
- Jürgen Rockstroh, co-chair of HIV in Europe talked about how to build alliances between clinicians and communities. This is especially important when it comes to testing and HIV services provided by communities.
- Matthias Kuske from Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe together with Barrie Dwyer from Terrence Higgins Trust presented their work in the project ESTICOM that is aimed at improving sexual health for gay and other MSM and is coordinated by Robert Koch Institute in Germany. ESTICOM consists of three directions – EMIS 2017, European survey for MSM, ECHOES – European survey on people who provides sexual health services and support to gay men and other MSM and are call Community Health Workers (CHW) and trainings for CHW based on finding of both surveys. You can learn more here
- Anna Conway from CEEISCAT, presented the COBATEST Network and their tool for data collection for checkpoints and community based testing centres. The network helps community organisations share experiences, access data collection and analysis support, contribute to the evidence base for CBVCT effectiveness. The COBATEST Network is coordinated by CEEISCAT and AIDS Action Europe.
- Valeriia Rachynska and Ferenc Bagyinszky, European NGO Delegates to the Programme Coordinating Board of UNAIDS, discussed the priorities of the Joint Programme for the upcoming period, and how European issues and concerns of communities and civil society can be represented on the global agenda. They also touched upon the recent sexual harassment scandal and UNAIDS and stressed the Delegation´s standpoint on the ongoing investigation by the Independent Panel that was set up by the current Chair (UK) of the PCB. Valeriia and Ferenc emphasized that unless basic structural change takes place to address the issues of harassment, violence and abuse of power, which are the root of the HIV epidemic, we will fail to reach our target of ending AIDS.
- Elena Vovc and Antons Mozalevskis from the WHO Regional Office for Europe talked about migration in Europe, in EECA region in particular. The situation in EECA region has its own challenges as there are lot of seasonal labour migrants within the region that are at risk to acquire infectious diseases. The role of civil society is to highlight issues and obstacles that people face in getting access to health care services.
- The work of the European HIV Legal Forum, a project conducted by AAE was also presented on several occasions at the conference. The EHLF conducted a legal survey in 16 European countries and produced a legal report and advocacy tool addressing the issue of access to HIV services for migrants in irregular situtations. Get the findings of the European HIV Legal Forum