As part of the study tour to the programs in the response to HIV / AIDS in Serbia, the delegation of doctors and epidemiologists from Montenegro, headed by Dr Aleksandar Marjanovic, head of the Centre for Voluntary Counseling and Testing for HIV in Podgorica, visited the Q-Club. Activists of Q-Club presented the work and achievements of the organization and explained more to the guests about PLHIV support programs that are implemented in organization. Special attention was given to AIDS resource web portal that offers a lot of trusted information about HIV / AIDS which are available throughout the region. The visit included the discussion of future forms of cooperation and joint initiatives.
Belgrade, The people living with HIV in Serbia are complaining about the lack of treatment nor only for HIV, but for other infections as well.
According to the estimate of the World Health Organization, there are between 4 and 6 thousand people living with HIV in Serbia. Only 1,500 of those are registered.
Thanks to the modern therapies, people living with HIV can live out their full lives if they start their therapy at the right time and do it adequately. The therapy usually consists of taking three different medicines at the same time, until the virus develops resistance to the medicines. At that point the combination should be changed.
“I can safely say that the HIV treatment in Serbia way below the European level. We are even below the regional level. The number of medicines on the list of the Republic Institute for Health Insurance is very limited. A new medicine hasn’t been added to the list since 2004. Another problem is that the patients get medicines prescribed, those medicines are registered, but can’t be purchased here – they just aren’t being imported” said Nenad Petković from the association of People Living with HIV.
Basic problem in treatment occurs when the virus becomes resistant to the prescribed combination of medicines. At that point it continues to replicate and endangers the life of the person. Members of the association claim that the number of PLHIV with this problem is rapidly growing, because for the last 15 years people have been treated with a limited number of medicines.
“A big problem is that we don’t have enough choice for medicines with good resistance profile, which are very resistant to virus changes and mutations – we don’t have any of those medicines. Only as many as three or four medicines could be of immense importance for therapies of patients who just don’t have any choice at the moments” said dr Jovan Ranin – infectologist.
Good treatment controls the pandemic of this illness. Average age of HIV patients in Serbia is 37. With adequate therapy they are capable to work normally. Otherwise their lives are threatened, and HIV infections leaves the body opened for numerous infections like tuberculoses, fungal infections, pneumonias, encephalitis, and many others. Another big problem is that medicines for those illnesses are in deficit as well.
“We now have a patient whose eyesight is weakening by the year, and we are afraid that he will soon go blind. He has already lost one eye, because we don’t have the medicine for cito-malignant retina virus, which had attacked him because of his diminished imunity” said Ranin.
People from the Republic Institute states that they are aware of the problem, and that 100 million dinars will be allocated for medicine purchase in 2012.
Until 2008, a part of the fund for PLHIV was provided in cooperation with the Post Office, and such actions should be organized again by the state officials.
The thirteenth European AIDS conference, organized by EACS – European AIDS Clinical Society, was held in Belgrade on October 12–15, 2011. During the conference members and volunteers of Q-Club were involved in various activities in the official part of the programme.
Nenad Petkovic, executive director of Q-Club spoke in the opening session about HIV and human rights.
Apart from the official part of the programme a few dozen organizations and pharmaceutical companies had their booths in the hall of the Sava Center, where we at Q-Club had a booth together with Jazas and SPY. Visitors of our booth got both preventive and educational materials, and our five-year report attracted a lot of attention.
Representatives of many companies and organizations showed great interests for future cooperation, while most of the doctors from the region were interested into AIDS resurs as a place where a lot of important information for patients could be found.
HIV/AIDS activists from all over Central and South-Eastern Europe came to a study visit to Q-Club. At this time Belgrade is hosting two renowned International HIV/AIDS conferences – NELP (Network of Low HIV Prevalence Countries) conference, and the 13th European Aids Conference, and we from the Q-Club are taking part in both of them.
The visit was a chance to present the work and achieved results of our organization in the last five years. It was also an excellent opportunity to form new and strengthen the existing ties with networked organizations.
A cocktail followed the official part of the visit.
Meeting Next steps for NeLP - Network of Low Prevalence Countries of Central and South-East Europe took place in Belgrade on October 11, 2011. The meeting was organized by EATG and Q-Club, and it was held in Hotel Continental. It gathered more than 40 participants from partner countries of NeLP, as well as guests from the Ministry of Health of Serbia, the National office for HIV/AIDS, UNDP, UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, and other HIV activists.
The topics of the meeting were current problems that partner countries face regarding stock-outs of medicines and diagnostics for HIV treatment. EATG presented and offered the Emergency guidance on ART forced treatment interruptions due to drug unavailability (forced stock-outs) for people living with HIV and their care providers in Europe and Central Asia. The Guidance gave practical advice for patients on what to do in these situations.
The Budapest Declaration, which was made on the first NeLP meeting, and the NeLP website that was made after the meeting (www.nelp-hiv.org) were presented to everyone. Also, some future steps for the network were defined.