HepHIV 2014 Conference – Challenges of Timely Testing and Care – focusing on testing and early detection of HIV and viral hepatitis infections was organised by HIV in Europe and it took place in Barcelona from 5th to 7th of October.
Key conclusions of the Conference were that there is an urgent need for changing the existing strategies for HIV and hepatitis testing in Europe. Number of infected people is increasing, and many are not yet aware that they have been infected. Late diagnosis implies higher mortality rate, increased risk of transmission and higher financial costs.
1 out of 3 of estimated 2.2 million people living with HIV throughout Europe are not aware of their HIV status, and about 50% of those diagnosed are classified as late presenters, with CD4 count less than 350. The biggest problem is in East Europe, but it is not negligible in other European countries, which means that new strategies for testing are needed, and they should include higher involvement of communities under the increased risks, and adequate approaches for different countries and sub-regions.
Representing Q-Club on the Conference was Nenad Petković, who presented the experiences of testing in Balkan countries and took part on the panel: “What is the role of the civil society and what are the key challenges” alongside with Ferran Pujol, Danny Morris, Nikos Dedes, Andriy Klepikov and Ton Coenen.
In September 2014 the HIV project of the Ministry of Health supported by the GFATM ended, and that opened a burning issue of sustainability of key activities, defined and recognized by the Strategy on HIV infection and AIDS of the Government of Republic of Serbia but also by international documents on prevention of HIV infection among populations under increased risk from HIV and support for people living with HIV.
The Consensus Conference was organised by the Ministry of Health, Institute for public health “Dr Milan Jovanovic Batut” and UNAIDS, with financial support from the HIV project supported by the GFATM and with the goal to analyze and plan for sustainability of key activities, as well as achieving consensus among relevant stakeholders on national levels for future steps for maintaining successful response to HIV epidemics in the Republic of Serbia. The main conclusion of the Conference was that it is necessary to maintain key services in HIV prevention and support for people living with HIV, including HIV testing and financing treatment for patients.
Representing Q-Club on the conference was Nenad Peković, as one of the many members of the civil society sector. Many of the invited representatives of key ministries and local self-governments did not take part on the Conference, which raises the question of whether the planned services will indeed be supported.
A Joint session of the Parliamentary Committee on Human and Minority Rights and Equality of Sexes and the Committee for European Integrations of the National Assembly took place in the National Assembly on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. The topic of the Joint session were issues concerning status and rights of LGBT people in Republic of Serbia.
At the invitation of the President of the Board, representative of Q-Club, as well as several representatives of other civil society organizations took part in this session as well. Our legislative authority expressed support to LGBT population and recognized the need for increasing efforts of all state authorities in order to improve the situation regarding protection of rights, particularly in regard to violence towards LGBT population.
Main focus of Q-Club’s efforts are health issues and topics regarding HIV/AIDS, but having in mind the current situation regarding rights of LGBT people in our society, stigma this population faces and its influence to public health problems we completely support improving the human rights status, particularly for LGBT people.
Center for affirmation of positive living, Q-Club organised a public forum „Legal framework and implementation of instruments to fight discrimination of people whose health may be basis for discrimination“
Speakers on the public forum were:
Mr. Petković opened the public forum, welcomed everyone and gave a brief overview of the legal framework for fighting discrimination in Serbia, including the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination, Law on Patients Rights and Healthcare Law of Serbia, as well as Anti-discrimination strategy which recognizes a separate vulnerable group people whose health status can be basis for discrimination.
Mr. Pantić has presented the Office of the Commissioner for Equality, and then talked about some recent discrimination cases on the basis of the health status the Office worked on. The two most recent were cases of people living with HIV. Mr. Pantić also expressed his concern over significant underreporting of discrimination cases. He also mention some of the excuses commonly used in attempts to justify discrimination in healthcare and in educational systems. In the end he stressed the importance of preventing discrimination, and invited everyone who faces discrimination to turn to the Office of the Commissioner for Equality.
Ms. Golubović presented the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and Korak Coalition and talked about the role of this Coalition in protecting the rights of LGBT people, women’s’ rights, rights of other discriminated people, and monitoring trials. Importance of the Coalition was recognized by the European Commission as the group with significant experience regarding discrimination in the country and an adequate partner to provide support to other efforts for improving the situation. Ms. Golubović also talked about other cases of discrimination in the legal system, where judges based their prejudices. She stressed that this is a serious topic meriting open discussion, and invited everyone facing discrimination to turn to YUCOM as another mechanism for fight against discrimination.
Mr. Rajaković talked about discrimination from three aspects: about discrimination on cognitive level which usually stems from ignorance for both people living with an illness or for people they interact with; about discrimination on emotional level which is a source of prejudices, and about the so called final, visible discrimination which can be seen in the discrimination cases mentioned by previous speakers in healthcare and the legal system. Unfortunately many people internalize the discrimination, and identify with the stereotype, which propagates it further. He further stressed the importance of fighting all forms of discrimination.
The public forum was a part of the project “Prejudice should not judge”, and the goal of the project is to prevent discrimination and to increase tolerance for people living with illnesses and their acceptance as equal members of the society, but also greater visibility of mechanisms which can be used as protection from discrimination of people whose health status can be basis for discrimination, as well as support to implementation of the Anti-discrimination strategy of Serbia. The project is implemented with support of the Korak coalition and financial support of the European Commission.
Center for affirmation of positive living, Q-Club organized a street “flash-mob” action named “Prejudice should not judge” on the Plato of Đoka Vještica, next to the Beograđanka Pallace on September 11th 2014. The goal of the street action was to raise awareness about necessity of caring for one’s own health and the need for equal acceptance of people living with illnesses that can be socially stigmatized and thus reason for discrimination.
During the action people had an opportunity to talk to representatives of associations Q-Club and Hronos, mostly about discrimination commonlz faced by people living with illnesses, where does the discrimination most oftenly occur and how to prevent it. Many of them were surprised about occurrences of discrimination and even openly admitted that they didn’t consider it as such before. They also expressed support to our action.
During the street action volunteers of Q-Club distributed promotional materials about most occurring discrimination based on health status to passers-by.
This “flash-mob” action was a part of the project “Prejudice should not judge”, and the goal of the project is to prevent discrimination and to increase tolerance for people living with illnesses and their acceptance as equal members of the society, but also greater visibility of mechanisms which can be used as protection from discrimination of people whose health status can be basis for discrimination, as well as support to implementation of the Anti-discrimination strategy of Serbia. The project is implemented with support of the Korak coalition and financial support of the European Commission. .