The Montenegro HIV Foundation – MHF is the first, and for now the only organization in Montenegro working with people living with HIV, their friends, partners, family, caretakers, but also for professionals who are understanding and supporting towards HIV/AIDS.
The organization was founded in 2010, as a response to complete lack of psychosocial support for people living with HIV. The support was initially provided by a psychologist, and has proven to be necessary because of the high stigma accompanying HIV on one hand, and on the other due to poor knowledge on ARV treatment and adherence among people living with HIV and their families. There were also cases of job termination, abandonment by their families, and low link to care. This gave the CHF another goal of raising awareness with patients and the general public about human rights and freedoms as well as universal access, right for treatment, and confidentiality according to Montenegrin laws.
The goals of the Foundation:
CHF has been implementing the project “Psychosocial support for PLHIV” with the support of the GFATM since 2010.
The main goal of the project is to improve the quality of life and better social acceptance of PLHIV as well as their partners, family members, close friends.
Along with this we have increased capacities of PLHIV by providing psychosocial support in direct and group counseling. Raising awareness of PLHIV on the importance of personal engagement in clinical treating of their infection and working with the medical staff involved in their care. By forming an empowering and supporting environment, we helped improve their life skills, empowered them to fight stigma and discrimination, reducing self-stigma, and improve communication skills.
Development of the “Guide for reporting on HIV/AIDS for journalists”
In spite of the progress in treatment, social attitudes are slow to change. Available data show that citizens of Montenegro know alarmingly little about HIV, and have little understanding about people living with the virus. Media play an important role in sensitising and educating the public about what it is like tolive with HIV. Prerequisit of adequate reporting on the HIV epidemics is knowing and understanding the progress achieved regarding HIV infection.
We have developed and printed a “Guide of reporting on HIV/AIDS for journalists” in order to help improve the situation in reporting on HIV in Montenegro. The Guide was distributed to all journalists and media houses covering HIV and health issues.
Analysis of the Montenegrin Legal Framework
Montenegro does not have a single, comprehensive law or regulation protecting the rights of PLHIV. Their protection is indirect, according to general regulations on prohibition of discrimination based on health status, regulations on principal confidentiality and privacy policies, laws on social welfare and healthcare.
We have developed an analysis of the legal framework regarding PLHIV in Montenegro. This analysis should help our further work, particularly in advocacy and lobbying for changes in Montenegrin laws and regulations, in order to improve the status of people living with HIV/AIDS.