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Cross-Region Exchange Program

The Cross-Regional Exchange project was initiated in 2014 with the purpose to strengthen community responses to HIV, hepatitis and related sexual and mental health conditions in the low HIV prevalence countries of the Middle East (ME), Central and South East Europe (C & SEE), primarily through crossregional exchange, networking, capacity building and trainings.

With this cooperation we want to:

  • Promote a better understanding of the ways in which low HIV prevalence negatively impacts community-based responses to HIV in the ME and C & SEE regions;
  • Explore the obstacles to engaging those people affected by and living with HIV and/or hepatitis to taking active roles in their overall health, treatment and care, including the nature of the support they do or did not received before, during and after testing;
  • Increase networking and ongoing activities amongst activists in ME and C & SEE; 4.To promote cooperative trainings and activities both at national and international levels;
  • Enhance community-based HIV activism in the regions that encourages skill sharing and collaboration beyond initial participants;
  • Maximize training experiences and encourage the growing participation of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and hepatitis, considering the shortage of activists who are comfortably open about their status.

 

Crosscutting issues/obstacles identified as major areas of concern in these low prevalence regions

Support

  • Lack of confidence and resilience in people living with HIV
  • Lack of attention to specific key populations
  • Limited peer and support group models to address mental health needs and self-stigma of PLHIV community
  • Lack of sense of community, limited “safe spaces”
  • Lack of professional and non-judgmental counseling
  • Non-existence of comprehensive models of service provision

Resources

  • Limited societal engagement often due to low prevalence, lack of interest
  • Lack of access to best HIV medicines
  • Insufficient promotion of testing (including community-based options)
  • Regulatory barriers
  • Lack of wider volunteer’s involvement
  • Insufficient capacities of PLHIV community
  • Non-existence of safe social networks
  • Lack of campaigning via social media to achieve common goals

Law and legal protection

  • Existence of laws that are discriminatory and/or criminalize homosexual conduct
  • Influence of stigma, cultural and traditional norms
  • Lack of knowledge about HIV and human rights/labour laws
  • Insufficient sharing of experiences among low HIV prevalence countries
  • Lack of awareness among police and law-enforcement officials
  • Lack of political agreement among key decision and policy-makers

Research

  • Lack of consolidated online surveys
  • Lack of capacity to conduct research
  • Limited access to research and data collection
  • Insufficient sharing of data, tools, manuals and translations
  • Lack of simplified reports
  • Different levels and types of research done by NGOs

 

Proposed solutions and future strategies in 2015/2016

Support

  • Advocate for comprehensive models of service provision (including confidentiality within healthcare setting, peer models, support groups, counseling and treatment cascade, PMCT)
  • Identify best practices in the regions
  • Encourage “safe spaces” for people facing HIV to congregate

Resources

  • Establish safe online network
  • Promote social media campaigning
  • Enhance capacity building initiatives
  • Promote and develop volunteerism
  • Encourage sharing of tools and manuals
  • Promote testing
  • Secure sufficient funding

Law and legal protection

  • Challenge and address discrimination, workplace discrimination (including gossip) in particular
  • Advocate for decriminalization of homosexual conduct and depenalization of drug use
  • Address tension between law and religion
  • Create enabling environment for key populations, including women, children and migrants
  • Ensure that HIV remains a high priority on the global UN agenda

Research

  • Encourage collection of data and more qualitative research
  • Strengthen collaboration within and across regions
  • Organize and conduct trainings on HIV treatment literacy and treatment advocacy
  • Advocate for ensuring better and universal access to testing, treatment and healthcare
  • Address adherence issues and share best practice examples