By Julie Pascault (Courtesy of AHF)
AHF’s Europe Bureau hit two major milestones in 2020 – its 10-year anniversary and, even more monumental, more than 100,000 clients in care! Nearly 14% of people accessing HIV treatment in Eastern Europe and Central Asia receive care at AHF-supported sites, in partnership with governmental and non-governmental institutions.
Several novel initiatives were started over the past 10 years, including a free rapid HIV testing model to reach key populations, and more significantly, the introduction of rapid testing in medical facilities (provider-initiated testing and indicator-disease testing), which became part of some countries’ national guidelines.
Innovative methods for improving linkage to care were also implemented across the region, along with the modeling of people-centered solutions for treatment of chronic HIV infection disease and groundbreaking prevention campaigns through creative marketing. Throughout all of these, AHF has been a driving force behind many service delivery advancements in Europe.
“We’ve had an amazing past decade and our goal still remains to turn AHF’s mission of ‘cutting-edge medicine and advocacy regardless of ability to pay’ into reality across Europe,” said Zoya Shabarova, AHF Europe Bureau Chief. “We also have big targets for the future, including a new Global Public Health Convention to ensure all countries are fully prepared to protect their citizens’ health in effective and coordinated ways during pandemics. We are making this vision a reality.”
Advocacy has been critical to the Bureau’s success, and the results achieved could not have been possible without building fruitful and cooperative relationships with other NGOs and governments alike.
“The era of combating HIV has produced a number of great organizations leading the fight. Yet only a handful provide truly sustainable and patient-centered support for people living with HIV,” said Dr. Ihor Perehinets, former Deputy Minister of Health for Ukraine, 2014-2015. “Among these few is AHF Europe, which I have been honored to cooperate with while working for the Ministry of Health of Ukraine. With its clear vision and strong commitment to help people, AHF is an example of not only how to fight, but how to win this battle against HIV.”
“AHF Europe will continue to build and share best practices related to HIV care,” added Anna Żakowicz, Deputy Bureau Chief for AHF Europe. “It’s vital that we address current and future challenges related to HIV/TB coinfection, aging with HIV, the need for integration, and smart referrals and challenges that are faced by women, men, and young people within HIV care.”
Throughout all the progress, as well as the setbacks, AHF Europe’s clients and their wellbeing have remained at the forefront of its efforts, which was evident across the Bureau, and particularly in Ukraine with the opening of AHF’s first clinic in the country in 2017.
“When AHF opened its ‘Test and Treat’ clinic in Odessa, I became one of its first patients. The team of health workers there are one of the best, the location is convenient, the working hours are flexible … and all services are free of charge,” said AHF Ukraine client, Albina Kotovich. “And patients can participate in the StART Club – a patient-driven community where members support each other in staying on treatment. This is a safe space for us to get questions answered and help each other and our providers shape our care in the most effective way.”