The 2018 AIDS Action Europe Member and Partner Meeting took place on Saturday, October 20, in Berlin. This year, the AAE Steering Committee decided to focus on 2 topics of concern for civil society organisations working in the field: good practices and gaps in addressing women in harm reduction and the role of international networks in response to HIV/AIDS, TB and viral hepatitis.

This article will focus on the second topic of the meeting. You can read about the good practices and gaps in addressing women in harm reduction here.

The second part of the meeting was dedicated to discuss the role of international networks in today’s response to HIV/AIDS, TB and viral hepatitis. The following networks provided their input during the meeting: European Coalition on Male Health (ECOM), Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE), East Europe and Central Asia Union of People Living with HIV (ECUO), European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG) and AIDS Action Europe (AAE).

In their opening keynote speech, Cianan Russel from Transgender Europe highlighted the importance of self-reflection and awareness by the organisations themselves when it comes to meeting the needs of the represented communities. Even organisations who work with human rights and  fight stigma are not safe from replicating similar discriminative environments and practices. It can appear in obvious circumstances like, for example, when people with disabilities are not able to enter a building because it is not accessible regarding their needs. As consequence, this can impact representation or decision making that excludes communities or its subgroups. Or it happens when people of colour do not feel represented because they are not or not sufficiently represented in decision making. Transgender Europe made this experience and published along with their activity report from June 2016 to June 2018 an anti-activity report where the organisation describes how they have been failing their communities.

Apart from the discussion on how European networks might fail the needs of their respective communities, the discussion focused on improving the collaboration of European networks in the response to HIV, TB and viral hepatitis.

Several issues were discussed during working group and fishbowl sessions: With regards to the difficult situation of NGOs and community based organisations face in the Russian Federation, it was noted that maintaining communication, to connect with activists and support at an international level is the least international networks can do and are doing. Considering that even GOs and other stakeholders working at international level are not able to improve the situation, in particular the response to HIV, TB and viral hepatitis addressed to key populations, the ambitions should not be too high. Nevertheless, international networks should monitor the situation closely and join efforts to act. 

Another issue raised was that international networks sometimes compete about funding. Quite often organisations feel that their funders dictate their scope of work instead of focusing on issues that are of the most concerns for the communities they represent. The participating organisations agreed that this competition needs to be accepted and shouldn’t affect necessary cooperation. Also, it should be taken into account that key population representing networks do not only represent one specific key population but that there are overlap. In reality those groups are not isolated from each other and better cooperation can improve outcomes for the communities. It was also mentioned that international network funding should not compete with national funding.

One of the main outcomes of this discussion was that European network representatives expressed their need to exchange information on their work and advocacy programmes, that they wish to improve collaboration in order to increase their impact in the response to HIV, TB and viral hepatitis and that they would like to see a platform where they can regularly get together and discuss these issues.

First part on good practices and gaps in addressing women in harm reduction.