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Dear Friends and Colleagues,

What a year 2020 has been! Despite that the SARS-CoV-2/COVID19 Pandemic demanded most of our energy, we continued to stay available to our Members and Partners and gave our best to open up new opportunities and perspectives amongst the barriers and challenges the pandemic brought along.

We would like to thank our members and partners for your accessibility your intrepidity to face challenges together in 2020 and for your sincerity towards us! With our festive season newsletter, we would like to wish you delighted upcoming holidays, and a happy 2021!

After the COVID-19 Pandemic reached the WHO European Region, we watched with growing concern some of the public health measures introduced by countries curtailing individual freedoms to levels and in ways that do not meet the criteria of human-rights based approaches. In our statement "Human Rights in times of a Pandemic", we outlined our concerns with the current developments. Additionally, in our policy paper on HIV-criminalisation, we made specific policy recommendations to end the unjust criminalisation of PLHIV and other key populations.

Please read below about the highlights of the work we done in 2020.

Thank you again for your engagement and commitment in 2020 and we are looking forward to working with you!

Best wishes,
AIDS Action Europe Steering Committee and the Executive Office
We would like to thank to our Steering Committee members, whose terms have ended before and in the end of this year:
Aigars Ceplitis, who has been in the committee from the time on, when AAE Office moved to Berlin and Maka Gogia, representing European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG) at the AAE Steering Committee, additionally we would like to send thank you to Esther Dixon-Williams, who left in the time between 2019 and 2020 and Richard Stranz, who left in the beginning of 2020.

Thank you for all your support and active engagement! 
Although there is a clear public health threat with the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must remain vigilant that measures taken by governments are always justified, proportionate and limited in their time for the period of the threat. We know from experience that public health measures that lack human rights principles will disproportionately affect vulnerable populations and will favour privilege over individual rights of every person. Further reading: Human Rights in times of Pandemics
Our report on how the COVID-19 Pandemic impacted the services and finances of our member and partner organisations, shows there is a growing concern among advocates and activists that the AIDS response, has been and will be further off by the pandemic and the measures connected to it.

Findings demonstrate that services with face-to-face client contact, who are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, TB, viral Hepatitis and STIs, were most harmed in the first time when the Coronavirus Pandemic appeared in the WHO European Region and lockdown and hygiene measures got introduced. 
In 2019 the European HIV Legal Forum (EHLF) produced a comparative legal report on HIV-criminalisation, based on a legal survey launched in the 10 EU/EEA countries: Austria, Czechia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, and the United Kingdom.

Based on and derived from the main findings of the report, in 2020 AIDS Action Europe prepared a policy brief on HIV-criminalisation with specific policy recommendations.
In 2019 the European HIV Legal Forum (EHLF) also produced a comparative legal report on access to HIV-, viral hepatitis-, and TB-services for people in prison and other closed settings, based on a legal survey launched in the 10 countries: Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, North Macedonia, Spain, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

Based on and derived from the main findings of the report, in 2020 AIDS Action Europe prepared a policy brief on access to HIV-, viral hepatitis-, and TB-services with specific policy recommendations.
HIV2020 Online, regardless of the restraining measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic has become an event that brought together communities from all over the world and provided an opportunity to share our joint issues, problems, lived experiences and achievements, which is an energizing momentum for reclaiming the global response to HIV, leading and showing the way with communities´ innovative and human approaches to end the global AIDS pandemic for all. Further: #HIV2020.
At our online Member and Partner Meeting this year, we implemened 6 working groups. AAE could had the opportunity to reflect our work, to arrange the core thematic areas on the needs and demands of our member and partner organisations, which will become part of our next Strategic Framework 2022-2025.

The AAE Steering Committiee has identified six core thematic areas that shape our work for 2018-2021. Below you will find the highlights of our work within each core thematic area in 2019. If you want to learn more about our scope of work for the period of 2018-2021, read our Strategic Framework, which you can find here.

1. Community based volunary counselling and testing (CBVCT)
As part of our core thematic area on CBVCT, AIDS Action Europe actively collaborates with the COBATEST Network which is a network of the community based testing facilities in close cooperation with the CEEISCAT institute in Barcelona.

In order to improve work of the Cobatest Network, the Steering Committee (SC) was established for the transitioning period to put together the governance structure of the Network. The current SC will work on this task till 2021 where the next SC will be elected by the members of the network. As testing facilities were very much hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s COBATEST member meeting focused on the impact that the pandemic has on diagnostics. COBATEST was part of a multistakeholder survey that was launched throughout the whole region. Preliminary results of the survey and a presentation on the impact specifically of community based facilities were presented along with good practice examples from the members on handling the services onsite.

2. Affordability and accessibility to medication
As part of the core thematic area on affordability, AIDS Action Europe focused in 2020 on support of national trainings on the topic of affordability based on the training manual, that was updated in 2018.

In 2021 we are organising a conference on the topic of affordability of and accessibility to medicine and diagnostics. Stay tuned!

3. Tackling legal barriers in the response to HIV, TB and hepatitis and 4. Criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission
Within the framework of these two core thematic areas, the European HIV Legal Forum, a project of AIDS Action Europe, continued working on monitoring and benchmarking legislation relevant to HIV and co-infections in order to advocate for policy changes in two projects. Based on the findings of the two reports published in 2019, we wrote two policy briefs with specific policy recommendations on HIV-criminalisation, and access to HIV-, viral hepatitis-, and TB-services.
Learn more about previous rounds of the European HIV Legal Forum here.

5. Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)

In December 2018, AIDS Action Europe started the SRHR project, combined with outcomes of our previous Joint Action Quality Action in HIV Prevention. Our work plan consisted of 2 webinars and 2 two-days meetings with 9 to 11 members and partner organisations. 

On February 20-21, in Berlin, 9 AAE member organisation representatives came together and reflected their impelemtentation of Quality Action tools in Combination Prevention and Chemsex Interventions. Our member and partner organisations, which are AIDS Solidarity Movement from Cyprus, Tanadgoma from Georgia, Humanitarian Project from Russian Federation, Positive Voice from Greece, Association Rainbow from Serbia, Social AIDS Committee from Poland, HOPS from North Macedonia, ReShape/International HIV Partnerships Englad-based and Positiiviset ry from Finland applied Quality Improvement Tools in their combination prevention and chemsex interventions and projects. Quality Action tools, which are online and free to use, can support organisations in their applcations for grands and funding by facilitating goals, assisting through the monitoring and evaluation phases.

6. Tackling stigma and discimination
AIDS Action Europe has been working on stigma and discrimination as an overarching core theme in all its activities. In the framework of the European HIV Legal Forum, we started working on the specific issue of discrimination against PLHIV in health care settings.

For 2021 we are planning to produced a legal report based on a survey launched in 11 countries, and a policy brief and recommendations.

The European AIDS Action Network was established in 2004, has continued to develop and has become one of the largest networks working in the field of HIV infection in the region. The network goes far beyond the borders of the European Union and covers all 53 countries in Europe and Central Asia.

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