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A Senior-Level Policy Dialogue on HIV and tuberculosis held in Tallinn

December 12, 2017

The meeting concentrates on transitioning the programmes and services aimed at stopping the spread of HIV and tuberculosis to sustainable state funding (photo: Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs)

12 and 13 December, a Senior-Level Policy Dialogue is being held in Tallinn under the auspices of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, concentrating on funding the programmes and providing services aimed at stopping the spread of HIV and tuberculosis (TB).

The event brings together representatives of the health and financial ministries of Europe, the Balkan and Eastern Partnership countries, representatives of the European Commission, the WHO and other international organisations, as well as community representatives and institutions involved in funding programmes and offering services to tackle HIV and TB. The meeting was be opened by Estonian Minister for Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski.

“The spread of HIV and TB continues to be a problem in Europe; it is a great concern in Eastern European countries where the situation is the most critical and the availability of treatment is among the worst in the world. In these countries, the vital services to fight these diseases have often been built with donor support. With the aim to achieve sustainable and effective services, we now have to find ways to finance these services from the state funding and integrate them to national health systems,” said Estonian Minister for Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski.

“In this respect, Estonia has valuable experience to share with Eastern European countries. When it comes to HIV services, we switched from the funding of foreign donors to state funding nearly ten years ago. We have reached a political agreement that this is a priority issue and therefore, we have steadily increased state funding. In the recently developed HIV action plan, we have set the ambitious goal of significantly reducing the number of new HIV infections in the coming years.”

According to Annika Veimer, the director of the National Institute for Health Development, the main challenge lies in finding the most efficient way to prevent and treat HIV and TB without losing focus. “Despite efforts, the number of new HIV infections has not significantly decreased in recent years and in the European context it is still very high. The number of new TB cases is falling but there are still twice as many cases as in the Nordic countries. Also, Estonia and the rest of the world are struggling with the spread of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis,” Veimer said. “This field is extremely complex and various problems are intertwined – for example, a tenth of TB sufferers are also HIV positive and over half of them have problems coping in society. These are factors that we must take into account.”

At the meeting held in Tallinn, participants search for ways to smoothly transition from funding through foreign aid programmes to sustainable state funding. Experts from Estonia and beyond will outline the best practices, challenges, opportunities and risks related to integrating HIV and TB programmes into a national health system. The discussions will also include the role and responsibility of various institutions and organisations in stopping the HIV and TB epidemics.

In Eastern Europe the fight against these diseases has largely been funded through international organisations (such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria).However, this kind of funding is not sustainable in the long term. The new challenge is a smooth transition to sustainable funding so that the work of HIV and TB programmes can continue after foreign aid ceases.

In Estonia, too, local HIV services were built with money from the Global Fund, including harm reduction services for drug addicts, which has been pivotal in reducing new HIV infections.

In addition to Estonian experts and researchers, specialists from Lithuania, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Romania, Moldova, Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Ukraine, and Russia will also speak.

The ‘Addressing HIV and TB Challenges: from Donor Support to Sustainable Health Systems’ meeting of senior officials is organised by the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs in cooperation with the National Institute for Health Development under the auspices of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The two-day event is being held at the conference centre of the Nordic Hotel Forum in Tallinn

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