WHO Europe member states convened on 12-14 September in Tel Aviv to agree on common actions to tackle the public health challenges of our days and the future. I was invited to provide a three-minute perspective on the significance of the Regional action plans for ending AIDS and the epidemics of viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections 2022–2030 as a person living with HIV. Being a community activist from South-East Europe, from North Macedonia, I tried to share a community perspective on the significance of the regional action plans, which were adopted right after two patient statements and a couple of member states’ formal statements. In the end, this intervention was limited to one minute.
Here is my perspective on the long-awaited action plans:
Dear ministers, dear representatives of member states,
I am honored to have been given this opportunity to address you as a person living with HIV, and a community activist from South-East Europe, from North Macedonia.
I am very happy that we are finally talking about the prospect of eliminating the epidemics of STIs, in addition to HIV and hepatitis, and that countries are ready to commit to it. An integrated approach can undoubtedly result in increased efficiency, but also in better care for patients and the people affected.
Within my community, we have been increasingly discussing the fact that we are not condemned to live with these infections forever. We already have an array of proven approaches to treat and prevent them. It’s a very simple logic – and we know it for a fact from HIV – that if we test and treat early – transmission rates will drop and eventually we could effectively eliminate these infections.
This has finally become a feasible political goal! But, it can be achieved only if we focus on the needs of the real people, without prejudice, committing to destigmatize sexual health and provide a combination of evidence-based services, at the level of communities.
We, the people who are affected, happen to know something about the conditions that affect us. We also have specific capacities and structures and we are able to deliver people-centered care, without which effective responses are not likely to happen.
In North Macedonia, for example, if the community itself had not started an HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis program last year, within a wider sexual health approach, an outbreak of syphilis among gay and bisexual men would have remained completely hidden to the eyes of public health institutions. By enabling the diagnosis and linkage to treatment we have contributed to the halt of this epidemic.
Communities must be part of the response at all levels –the decision making and programming, as well as at the service delivery level. I expect that civil society models of service delivery will become a major component of the national responses to these diseases, and will receive adequate funding to fully utilize their capacities.
Let me end by pointing out that it is within your reach as the decision-makers of today to bring about the end of HIV, VH and STIs. What an inspiring opportunity! Please make use of it.
community activist (North Macedonia)
Stronger Together, Association for Support of People Living with HIV
European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG)
The WHO Regional Committee for Europe convened on 12-14 September this year in Tel Aviv. The Regional Committee is the highest decision-making body of WHO in the European Region, comprising all 53 Member States. With ministers of health and other high governmental representatives participating, it is comparable to the role which the World Health Assembly has at the global level: it is supposed to shape political commitment in the area of health in our region.
Read more about the Regional action Plans:
Regional Action Plans for ending AIDS and the Epidemics of Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections 2022–2030
Regional Action Plan: Tuberculosis Action Plan for the WHO European Region 2023–2030
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