World AIDS Day in Azerbaijan

Conference "HIV in prisons"  was organized jointly by UNODC and Ombudsman office in Azerbaijan  on 1 December 2010. Members of Parliament, Ombudsman, representatives from ministries of Health, Justice, Internal Affairs, Education, international organizations such as WHO, GFATM, OSI as well as NGOs took part in it.  Main goal was to advocate HIV prevention with focus on vulnerable groups. Official opening was facilitated jointly by the Parliament of Azerbaijan,  Ombudsmen Apparatus and UNODC Programme Office. Elmira Suleymanova, Ombudsman, emphasized necessity to ensure drug users and prisoner's rights and eliminate discrimination and negative attitude to vulnerable groups. This is the only way to improve access to health and social care for vulnerable population. Intolerance to the IDUs isolation from the society also was discussed. Hagigat Gadyrova, Director of National AIDS Center, presented data on HIV/AIDS in Azerbaijan. It has been pointed out that the main driven factor of HIV epidemic is the injecting drug users. However, the rate of heterosexual spreading of HIV is increasing, that is very alarming and can lead to worsening of the situation. Representative of the Ministry of Justice proposed to bring national laws in compliance with international standards and norms in order to decrease the number of drug users sentenced to imprisonment, to consider alternatives to imprisonment for those convicted of n on-violent drug-related criminal offences and limit the use of pre-trial detention. Arzu Guliyeva,  the NPO of the UNODC Progamme Office in Azerbaijan, shared  international experience, scientific findings on HIV effective prevention approaches. International recommendations on alternatives for imprisonment and access for health care in penitentiary system were presented to participants as well. Elmira Alekperova, the NGO representative, mentioned the role of civil society organizations in  promoting of HIV prevention and improvement of health care in prisons. She emphasized the role of community participation in prevention of spreading HIV/AIDS, STD, TB and other concomitant diseases.  Participants emphasized the importance of acknowledgment of HIV/AIDS and drug use problem, creation a favorable social environment for improving access to HIV/AIDS prevention, care services for injecting drug users and inmates in prisons though non-governmental organizations. Event has been continued in the women's prison. 350 women took part in it.