STEP-UP – Skills Training to Empower Patients

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STEP-UP is a year-long modular training programme designed to provide HIV education and personal development training to people who aspire to become more active in the work of and for HIV communities in Europe and Central Asia. Since 2013, the aim of STEP-UP is to equip a cohort of HIV ambassadors with the knowledge and skills they need to advocate for the best HIV practices. Due to COVID-19, the STEP-UP 2019/2022 programme cycle elevated its face-to-face approach to a series of online sessions. Although the programme has continuously evolved over the years into a training academy, it maintains its main mission of treatment education and patient information.


The new cycle of STEP-UP 2022/2023 is a bilingual (English and Russian) training programme that combines a self-paced e-learning approach with a face-to-face STEP-UP Community of Practice Workshop. It has the form of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), the first of its kind on HIV, designed by activists for activists, free and accessible to everyone. The training programmewas complemented by a face-to-face Community of Practice Workshop, a system of sub-grants and cascade of trainings for networking, empowerment and advocacy.


Specific focus on the Eastern Europe and Central Asialaid the foundation for the consortium with the leading HIV NGO in EECA – the Alliance for Public Health (APH).


STEP-UP continued to:


  • Confidently engage in dialogue with researchers, policy makers and industry to on projects, interventions, programmes, R&D, policies and regulations related to the prevention, treatment and care of HIV and related co-infections (mainly hepatitis B and C, TB and STIs) and comorbidities, at local or international levels
  • Enhance treatment literacy and advocacy capacities of local and regional HIV community organisations
  • Further promote the adherence to HIV treatment, care, support and prevention in Europe
  • Fight stigma, health inequalities and discrimination towards people living with HIV



With whom?

STEP-UP is designed for people living with HIV/AIDS, health care providers, civil society representatives and other professionals who work in service delivery and/or advocacy to ensure universal access to combination prevention, HIV treatment and care.


The new format significantly increased the number of STEP-UP graduates. Participation in the STEP-UP MOOC was not be based on any selection process, but on willingness to participate. As the contents and languages of the training was specifically tailored to the needs of HIV activists in WHO Europe, most participants came from the HIV sector, thus have prior knowledge of HIV and related infections prevention, treatment and care and aspire to expand their capacities, or to have a particular interest in HIV-related issues.


Trainees should assume a leadership role in prevention, treatment and care advocacy, fighting stigma and discrimination, and in increasing understanding and acceptance of HIV in their country and at international level.


The main pool of STEP-UP trainers was recruited within the EATG membership, consisting of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS and related co-infections within the WHO Europe region. The project also saw the participation of in-house consultants, such as the e-learning or evaluation consultants.


The STEP-UP 2022/2023 programme is a collaboration between EATG and the Alliance for Public Health (APH).


The main activities of STEP-UP 2022/2023 were:

  • A free, open to all, self-paced online training on key thematic areas around HIV and advocacy in Europe (MOOC);
  • The online training was launched in April 2023 and will remain available online at least until October 2024 (with the possibility of a further extension depending on funding opportunities);
  • A community of practice is established so that the STEP-UP graduates can network, interact and exchange best practices with their peers online and in real life beyond the training period itself;
  • Following a call for participation, successful STEP-UP graduates were selected by EATG jointly with APH to participate in the Community of Practice Workshop. A scholarship system was set up to ensure access to the Community of Practice Workshop for a large number of the selected STEP-UP graduates. ;
  • As for the previous STEP-UP cycles, selected graduates received support for implementing activities directed at knowledge sharing and community mobilisation at the local level. EATG and APH provided financial and technical support for the organisation of cascade trainings as part of this programme. The grant scheme provided a flexible financial resource to help participants set up projects which directly enhanced the quality of life of people living with HIV in the wider community; allowing them to put their STEP-UP learnings into practice.


For what outcome?

The expected outcomes of the project are:

  • STEP-UP graduates apply new knowledge and skills to advocacy challenges in key thematic areas in HIV important in the European context
  • STEP-UP graduates demonstrate improved advocacy skills both individually and in collaboration with colleagues through empowerment at the personal and professional levels
  • STEP-UP graduates influence policy and programming at the local, national and regional levels through effective advocacy to promote access to quality services, and in fighting stigma and discrimination for people who are living with or affected by HIV


EATG contact person(s):Chiara Longhi –

Ann Isabelle von Lingen –

Duration of the project/initiative:Started in 2013 – ongoing
Project/Initiative Leader:EATG
Project/initiative Main Partner(s):Alliance for Public Health
Budget:2022/2023: 478.199,61 €
Main Funding Sources:Gilead Sciences Europe Ltd
Communication Disclaimer:This initiative has been independently developed by EATG, and was made possible through sponsorship from Gilead Sciences Europe Ltd. EATG acknowledges that Gilead Sciences Europe Ltd has not had any control or input into the structure or content of the initiative. The STEP-UP MOOC is implemented in collaboration with Alliance for Public Health.


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