Civil society groups are seriously concerned about holding the upcoming EECAAC conference in Russia and its support by UNAIDS

Published: April 24, 2014

On February 24, 2014 Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRH) sent an appeal, signed by 11 major civil society organizations and networks of key affected populations, to UNAIDS Executive Director, Mr. Sidibe, imploring him to address deadly Russian HIV policy at the upcoming Eastern European and Central Asian AIDS Conference (EECAAC). 

 
The 4th Eastern European and Central Asian AIDS Conference (EECAAC) will be held on May 12 – 13, 2014.  Though the global community is appreciative of Russia’s financial contribution, without which the event would not take place, they are concerned about it being hosted for the 4th time by the Russian Federation. Russia’s less-than-exemplary HIV policy and the fact that some of Russia’s policies make it unsafe or impossible for representatives of key populations to participate in the event inspired the organizations to take action.   “It is essential that UNAIDS co-sponsorship and participation in the event is not construed as support for Russian HIV policy, which is widely recognized as being contrary to human rights based and evidence based practice” said Sergey Votyagov, Executive Director of the EHRN Secretariat.
 
Russian policy is fueling its HIV epidemic rather than slowing or stopping it. Investment in programs targeting vulnerable populations in Russia is on the decline and the number of newly detected cases of HIV infection is on the rise. In the first 9 months of 2013, 7% more cases were detected than in the previous year.  People who inject drugs (PWID) continue to be the group most affected by the epidemic with 54% of new cases being among PWID in 2013. Russia though does not support harm reduction programs, including needle exchange, which are recognized throughout the world and by UN agencies to be effective and humane. Opioid substitution therapy (OST) is banned, leaving thousands of PWID without this life saving means to improve quality of life and to prevent HIV infection and also leaving thousands of PWID who live with HIV without support that would enable their adherence to antiretroviral medicines.  “This is not a model that other countries should be encouraged to emulate,” notes Sergey.
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