Training “ARV treatment literacy“ took place in Belgrade from 6th to 8th of February 2015. The training was organised by Association Q-Club and with the support of the European AIDS Clinical Society (EACS).
Goal of the training was to educate participants on how to adequately use ARV treatment, to familarise them with basic principles of peer counseling and enable and empower them to consult, educate and give acurate and adequate information on ARV treatment and adherence to this treatment.
Adequate use of ARV treatment as well as complete adherence to it is crucial for everyone living with HIV, because they dramatically improve their quality of life and prevent further progression of the infection.
There were 31 participants of the training (four of them doctors, four of them peer educators, and 23 activists). Participants came from all over Serbia, but also from neighbouring countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia), which gave a regional character to this training.
The training included lectures, workshops and practical excercises presenting crucial information on adequate use of ARV treatment, adherence as well as basic concept on HIV and AIDS.
Some of the most important lectures were “On natural course of the HIV infection and initiating treatment” by dr Dubravka Salemovic, and “Introduction to ARV treatment, groups of drugs and resistance” by dr Jovana Kusic as well as “Immune system, virology, CD4 count and viral load” by prof. dr Djordje Jeftovic, but also “Adherence” by dr pharm. Gordana Dragovi Lukic. These lectures gave the participants the most important terms and concepts regarding HIV, origins, transmission, progression and revolution in discovering ARV medicines which enabled practically normal lives for people living with this illness.
The training participants learned about some of the newest medical achievements regarding HIV, like Treatment as Prevention, pre exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and post exposure prophylaxis (PEP), but also on the importance of clinical research methodology.
On the last day the participants had a chance to learn from experienced peer educators, and to learn the newest techniques and mechanisms in peer counseling and by participating in role plays, workshops and examples learn how to act in various potential situation and be prepared to adequately react and help people with issues and problems.
People who know about their treatment can understand its significance, and are very empowered. They can adequately react to all changes they go through, and to make informed decisions about the course of their treatment, habits, responsibility as well as to help empower people from their community and share their knowledge and experience with other, thus motivating other people to learn their HIV status and start treatment in time, which will enable them to lead long and high quality lives. .
The meeting “Significance of supervisory researches for HIV/AIDS prevention” took place on Friday, February 6th in the Institute for Public Health of Serbia “Dr Milan Jovanović Batut“ in order to present the results of the latest (bio)behavioral supervisory study which was performed in 2013/2014 with populations under increased risks from HIV and people living with HIV. This professional meeting was a good opportunity to discuss options for continuing key activities implemented with the above mentioned populations, which were implemented as part of the HIV project of the Ministry of Health funded by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
From 2007 to 2013 the Institute for Public Health of Serbia “Dr Milan Jovanović Batut“ performed four (bio)behavioral supervisory studies. The goal of these studies was to monitor response to HIV in the Republic of Serbia, but also to adequately plan for activities suitable for the current situation. Leaving of the Global Fund from Serbia poses a significant challenge for all HIV programs in Serbia, and thus we need to direct attention to programs and activities with proven results.
The research was performed in 20 towns in Serbia and it encompassed populations of youth residing in institutions for children without parental care, young Roma people, intravenous drug users, MSM population, sex workers, prisoners and PLHIV.
The results of the research demonstrated that the prevention programs that contributed to increase of availability and uptake of prevention activities and greater inclusion of groups under increased risk need to be continued.
Particularly interesting part of the research was the segment which estimated the quality of life of people living with HIV. Conclusions of this segment of the study was that PLHIV are very generally dissatisfied with their quality of life, and that dissatisfaction for many of them I slinked to the poor financial status, and high unemployment level, which is higher than average for Serbia, but also to high levels of stigma and discrimination PLHIV face and insufficient response of the social services and low levels of support. The research demonstrated that PLHIV are very dissatisfied with low availability of CD4 and PCR diagnostic tests on infectious clinics. On the other hand the research demonstrated that PLHIV were very satisfied with availability of ARV treatment, and that adherence to ART is high, while the strongest reasons for bad adherence are side effects of drugs. Also the research showed that over the years number of people using services of the civil sector increased – people mostly turned to NGOs after experiencing some form of stigma and discrimination.
This segment of the research among other things recommends that we need to enable and promote legal changes which would provide an institutional framework for taking care of most vulnerable PLHIV and enable social and healthcare services for people living with HIV, to provide for sustainability and improvement of existing programs with good results, to improve capacities of NGOs and other organizations providing support for PLHIV, but also to sensitize and educate healthcare workers and other professionals working with PLHIV..
Over the past year Q-Club has continued its activities and implemented several new projects. We are pleased to present a Report on our work in 2014.
During his visit to London, representative of the Q-Club used the opportunity to visit some of the most interesting HIV related projects in the UK.
The most modern clinic in the World for treating sexually transmitted diseases and testing is 56 Dean Street. The building in its appearance looks more like a night club, but provides all levels of testing, counselling and treatment with no administrative barriers and formalities. The clinic is a recipient of numerous awards and it is a real wonder of technology and organisation. An exceptional example on how cooperation with community in risk can help achieve great results. Our host was David Stuart.
HIV i-base is the organisation Q-Club has been working with for years, and is one of the most significant sources of information on ARV treatment for both patients and activists. We had an opportunity to visit the offices of the organisation and talk to Simon Collins and other people working there. We are very grateful to HIV i-base for selfless sharing of information and products.
We also visited Kings Clinic for treatment of HIV/AIDS in south part of London, where we were accepted by Paul Clift, otherwise working on the clinic as a representatives and peer counsellor for patients. He shared his experiences and we got a lot of information on how such a service works and what does it take to include it in the clinic of this sort.
During the visit ACT UP London, along with other activists, organised a protest in front of the NHS asking for PrEP to be introduced to the UK without delay. We had an opportunity to see this interesting activist display.
It was an extremely interesting week in London, where we learned a lot and got so much information from the best examples. We are particularly grateful to Ben Collins from International HIV Partnerships who organised this study visit.
British HIV Association (BHIVA) organised an annual conference on HIV/Hepatitis coinfections in London from 7th to 8th of December 2014. This annual conferenc brought together people directly involved in taking care of patients infected with HIV and hepatitis B or C, but also people involved in research, epidemiology, representatives of patient groups, and representatives of partner organisations from France, Germany, Spain and UK.
The newest achievements in HIV treatments were the topic of the Conference. A new, more efficient and safer treatment for HCV is now available – the so called direct-acting antiretroviral treatment (DDA). However even the “pan-genotype” DDA have different effects on different sub-types. For now one regiment that would work for all does not exist. HCV has a very high diversity. There are 7 known genotypes of HepC. Genotype 1 can further be divided into A, B, C and G, but they are so different that they can be considered separate genotypes in the future. This is another reason why effects of some medicines vary on these subtypes.
A significant problem is a high price of these medicines, which makes access to treatment much harder in many countries. Researches confirm that similar medications will soon emerge on the market, and that increasing the competition will improve access to treatment.
Nenad Petkovic took part on the Conference.