All international publications on HIV highlight Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) as the area where the spread of HIV is not slowing down but growing. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of new HIV cases rose by 57% According to UNAIDS estimates, there is a total of 3.1 million people living with HIV there.
The rise in HIV in EECA is directly related to bans on some services and the lack of essential prevention services such as harm reduction measures, substitution therapy, as well as low access for people who use drugs (PWUD) to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and sustainable engagement programs. Most these programs were funded by foreign donors, and the governments are in no rush to provide sufficient funding to the AIDS response.
In the second half of 2016 EHRN assessed investments and gaps in the financing of the continuum of HIV-related services (from prevention, diagnostics to treatment and care) for key affected populations. Detailed analysis of country progress reports on the global AIDS response as well as statistics and other data showed the allocations to be insufficient and sometimes misused in the EECA countries. A very low coverage of key populations appears to be the main driving force behind the spread of HIV in the region.
"Russia puts in a tremendous effort into testing general population for HIV. In 2015, more than 30 million people underwent enzyme immunoassay testing. At the same time, the screening only covered less than 1% of those in the key affected populations. As a result, only 9.7% of PWUD were screened for HIV in 2014. Given that Russia is a major contributor to the HIV epidemic (1.8 MLN out of 3.1 MLN cases in the EECA region), and taking into account its central position at the crossroads of migration and trade routes of Eurasia, we are not optimistic about the HIV epidemic in the region unless the Russian leadership takes systemic evidence-based measures, targeting key groups,"- says Daniel Kashnitsky, EHRN Project Manager.
Unfortunately, access to services for PWUD in most countries of the region is insufficient to change the situation.
"With the current epidemic, we have seen examples in the world of how effective investment in HIV prevention and treatment can really stop the spread of the AIDS epidemic. Unfortunately though, political climate and populism carry more weight for decision-makers in our region than economic arguments or scientific evidence.
Therefore, we will not stop repeating - sometimes even 10 cents for harm reduction can turn the epidemic around. And now is the time to make that decision!" - says Anna Dovbakh, Acting Executive Director of EHRN.