Yaroslav Bliakharskyi (Ярослав Бляхарский) about his time on the Steering Committee of AIDS Action Europe (AAE).

Yaroslav, our Steering Committee (SC) member, who represents All-Ukrainian network of people living with HIV/AIDS – 100% LIFE, is leaving our SC next year. In our interview with Yaroslav, he talks about his experience being an AAE Steering Committee member. Furthermore, he stresses out the value of respecting each other coming from different countries and cultural backgrounds; and how the committee can help to exchange professional knowledge and experience with other activists and professionals working in the HIV prevention field. 

1. Yaroslav, you have been a member of the SC since January 2017. Could you please tell for future SC candidates, how was it in the beginning? 

Yaroslav Bliakharskyi (YB): At the very beginning, it was exciting (smiles). I remember how I got an introduction manual for SC members with a section describing cultural differences between people from different parts of Europe. The main message was - respect each other, despite the fact that we are all different. I was surprised that such a section is presented in the manual in general - I never met something similar in documents. As a rule, they are written rather formally, but in AAE - in a living and human language. It touched me so much that I still remember this moment. At first there was a lot of worrying - new people, whether they will accept me as I am, especially since my English is not the best. Respect for the opinions of other SC members and their cultural characteristics is the “red line” of my whole term as a SC member of AAE. It is hard to talk about it, it needs to be seen and felt. It was even hard to believe in it, but somewhere at the second meeting, I already felt that respect is one of the values of the SC of AAE, a real one, not a declared one.

Afterwards everything was dynamic: teleconferences (TC), e-mails, meetings. At first, I listened a lot and tried to catch what was happening. This was not manageable from the first meeting on, because the European and international context is slightly different from the national one. It is not worth worrying that you do not understand something from the beginning, other SC members will always support and answer all questions. Well, after a year, you are already sufficiently oriented in the activities and do not face difficulties with this. Probably the whole first year can be considered as the beginning.

2. What was your greatest achievement of the time working as SC member? 

(YB): Undoubtedly, when the SC meeting was held in the spring of 2019, in Kyiv. In Ukraine, we are going through interesting and important processes of transitioning from donor to state funding. Usually, you want to show SC members the achievements of your own organisation and listen to their feedback. We had a very rich program, a number of important meetings, a visit to the community-based medical centre, which is a unique project of its kind. I hope my SC colleagues liked it. In addition, for ourselves, we got a number of important results at the meetings, so it was very useful for my organisation.

3. In your opinion, why is it worth applying for the AAE network to become SC member? What are the advantages and opportunities for a SC member and for their organisation? In addition, what, in your opinion, are the difficulties and challenges? 

(YB): There are a lot of advantages! This would be to present your own experience, learn about the experiences in other countries, and work in a team of worthy professionals and great activists. This is undoubtedly professional growth. In addition, AAE provides all kinds of support to member organisations. And it is also very important to know that you can count on someone’s expertise and professional help. I would like to add what was important for me, as a representative of the EECA region, was to see a different corporate culture and a different organization management principles! After all, the SC members do not receive financial benefits for their work here, and this changes all relationships and eliminates the conflict of interests in decision-making. All work has a slightly different connotation - meetings and TCs are prepared, enough time is given to work with documents, protocols and attachments and so on in order to not to distort the point of view of each of the SC members. This is so unusual (smiles).

Looking back, I can say that there are no special difficulties, because in AAE not only the SC consists of very cool people, but also the “office” team is qualified and professional. Yes, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Michael, Ferenc, Oksana and Ljuba for their work and help - on their shoulders lays all the “executive work” of AAE, implementation of projects, reporting, organisation of SC meetings and AAE member and partner meetings, logistics, PR and all communications. In general, a lot of work and it deserves respect and gratitude.

Would you like to add anything else?

(YB): I have only words of gratitude to all members of the SC of AAE, DAH (Deutsche AIdshilfe) as a host organization, office and everyone with whom I met at AAE member and partner meetings. Thank you for three years of intense experience, interest, warm meetings and teamwork.

Thank you, Yaroslav!


We currently have 3 vacancies in our Steering Committee for a 3-year term of 2020 – 2022, starting on 1. Jan 2020, for: 

  • 1 member from the non-EU Southeast Europe region
  • 1 member from the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region
  • 1 member from the EU Southern region

If you are interested and meet the criteria, please apply by December 8, 2019! 

For further information on the call to join the AAE Steering Committee please follow this link