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Partners of the East Europe and Central Asia Union of People Living with HIV (ECUO) held a meeting in Kyiv with the support of the UNAIDS regional office in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

During the event the participants discussed the general strategy of the EECA regional networks on the eve of VI Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference, ECUO highlighted the strategic changes and tasks of the organization for the near future and presented the opportunities of the regional program “Partnership for Equal Access to the Continuum of HIV Services for Everyone who Needs it in the EECA region”, implemented with the Global Fund financial support and UNAIDS Regional Office technical assistance; moreover, the partners discussed the development of further cooperation in the EECA countries.

Igor Kilchevskyi, CEO of ECUO, thanked all partners for the cooperation, expressed the appreciation of UNAIDS for support, stated that the ECUO continues to consistently implement its strategy and is not only open for cooperation within existing programs, but also welcomes new initiatives for efficient response to HIV/AIDS, TB, hepatitis in the EECA region. He emphasized the importance of uniting the joint efforts of all regional networks representing the KAPs to advocate for the rights of people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Mr. Kilchevskyi also talked about the ECUO plans of the next year and underlined that regional networks can play a significant role in the program activities of ECUO, because all the networks pursue the same global goal.

It should be noted that the cooperation of regional networks was initiated by ECUO, and in 2015 a memorandum of cooperation was signed in Armenia, which became possible with the technical support and meaningful involvement of regional offices of UNAIDS Eastern Europe and Central Asia and UNFPA, whose teams have conceived back then, how promising is this format for efficient response to the challenges of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the EECA region.

Naira Sargisian, Regional Advisor to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, noted that UNAIDS always strives to ensure that all communities cooperate and work in a balanced and synergetic manner. UNAIDS continuously supports all civil society initiatives aimed at strengthening communities and enhancing cooperation between the communities of KAPs. She said that civil society faces another important task – the EECA Regional AIDS Conference, which will be held on April 18-20, 2018 in Moscow. At this conference, civil society should present a consolidated position, and the voice of civil society should be heard, while UNAIDS, as the co-chairing entity of the conference, is ready to provide technical support and assistance.

“HIV infection is probably the only problem that unites so many networks around it. The ECUO has a great experience and, probably, this is an organization that includes all the communities of key affected populations. Any organization might face a crisis. Communities are strong when they set forth their position together, when roles and responsibilities are clearly assigned and well understood. Cooperation is very important so that communities can move on to survive. We assure you that the UNAIDS regional office is always with you and is ready to support all joint initiatives aimed at changing the HIV epidemic situation in our region”, Naira Sargisian said.

On the first session Andrey Kosinov, manager of the Regional PARTNERSHIP Program, presented information on the work plan and financial capabilities of the ECUO for 2018, and noted that in the third project year its financing would be increased, and the work of four more country consortia in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Tajikistan will be supported. The presentation was followed by constructive discussion on the achievements of the program for two previous years of its implementation.

During the meeting in Kyiv ECUO regional partners discussed the topics related to holding a separate session in the framework of the VI Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference, the areas for advocacy and aspects of preparing to the conference. Hovhannes Madoyan, co-chairman of the civil society committee of the conference, facilitated the session:

“Civil society should take the greatest possible advantage of the EECAAC 2018 platform to advocate for important issues of access to the continuum of HIV and con-infection related services, and to build effective communication with the state in the Russian Federation and other EECA countries”.

Tatyana Khan, an expert of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ITPCru), spoke about the preparation and main tasks of the conference:

“The Sixth Regional Conference on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia will include discussions on access to the continuum of HIV services for all key populations. The agenda of the sessions has almost been formed. This year the organizers plan to engage a large number of international experts in the field of HIV/AIDS to share experience, as well as invite representatives of regional & national networks and communities of key populations, managers of national HIV/AIDS programs, researchers in the relevant sciences and health workers from all EECA countries, as well as representatives of pharmaceutical companies”.

Cristina Celan, representative of the Center for Health Policies and Studies (PAS Center, Moldova), speaking about the achievements of the regional TB REP program, noted that a number of tasks had been successfully implemented during the program implementation.

National coordinators and national working groups were approved in 11 countries, the Barcelona TB/Health Systems Strengthening course was successfully conducted in 2016-2017, a strategic document was developed regarding the patient’s vision of a quality model of care, the Model itself was published and distributed to stakeholders, grant support was provided for 11 country teams for the implementation of new approaches involving the people affected by TB themselves, a cross-country experience sharing was implemented in Armenia for Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, etc. Ms. Celan mentioned that improvement is needed in such areas as the improvement in the quality of treatment and diagnosis of DR-TB, as well as a people-centered approach.

Representatives of the following organizations took part in the ECUO Partners meeting: UNAIDS Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Eurasian Coalition on Male Health (ECOM), the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS (EWNA), the Eurasian Network of People Who Use Drugs (ENPUD), International Treatment Preparedness Coalition in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ITPCru), Central Asian Association of People Living with HIV (CAAPLWH), Center for Health Policies and Studies (PAS Center), International NGO Medecins sans Frontiers, the Eurasian Network of People Affected by TB (TBpeople), Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN), the Georgia Group Plus, Estonian Network of People Living with HIV.

All the participants of the meeting unanimously agreed that the cooperation of the partners extends beyond the scope of discussions on this event, and the dialogue and interaction will continue in the future.

The event took place within the framework of the regional program “Partnership for Equal Access to the Continuum of HIV services for Everyone Who Needs It in the EECA region”, implemented by ECUO with the support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

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