UNODC Contributes to the Capacity Building of the AIDS Centres and Trust Points of Uzbekistan

People who inject drugs are among the groups most vulnerable to HIV infection. It is estimated that people who inject drugs are 22 times more likely to acquire HIV than among the rest of the population. Drug use now accounts for an ever-growing proportion of those living with HIV. On average one in ten new HIV infections are caused by the sharing of needles. It is thought that there are approximately 11.8 million people who inject drugs worldwide, and 13.1% of them are thought to be living with HIV.

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which saw a 29% increase in new HIV infections between 2010 and 2017, the burden is particularly high among people who inject drugs. In 2017, 39% of new HIV cases in the region were among this group.

Under the Program for Central Asia (2015-2019) / Sub-Programme 3 "Drug prevention, treatment and reintegration and HIV prevention" UNODC continues its activities in the field of HIV prevention among PWID.

From 18-20 October 2018 UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia in close cooperation with the National AIDS Centre of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan conducted a workshop for managers and medical staff of Regional AIDS Centers of Uzbekistan on improvement of quality comprehensive HIV-services for vulnerable groups of population - people who inject drugs (PWID). Over 50 participants represented National and Regional AIDS centres, Central Asian Education Center for treatment, care and support for PWHIV (people living with HIV), the Republican Centre for State Sanitary and Epidemiological Supervision of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Mr. Kalhramon Yuldashev, Director of National AIDS Center, Ministry of Health, highlighted in his opening remarks that "international best practices show that effective coordination and complex approach towards implementation of programmes on reducing the HIV epidemic can bring to decrease in number of new cases of HIV. The Government of Uzbekistan addresses the HIV-related issues on the highest level, successfully conducts measures on reduction of HIV epidemic. The complex measures brought the situation to stable mode."

Ms. Ashita Mittal, UNODC Regional Representative for Central Asia, noted: "Despite the increased risk of HIV for people who inject drugs they are among those with the least access to HIV prevention, treatment and healthcare. This is because drug use is often criminalized and stigmatised. Among the immediate causes of these disparities is the lack of consistent access to sterile injecting equipment, opioid substitution therapy (OST), condoms, HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy (ART) for those who are living with HIV. It is crucial to ensure that the government and civil society are joining efforts and practice harm reduction policies based on a strong commitment to public health and human rights."

During the workshop, the AIDS centre specialists from around the country discussed the following topics: epidemiological situation on HIV in Uzbekistan and measures taken to counter the spread of HIV, intersectoral approach to countering the spread of HIV, achieving the goals of the Fast-Track Strategy 90-90-90, education (training) component in HIV prevention, detection of HIV among vulnerable groups /PWID, Harm Reduction Program for vulnerable populations/Trust Points, data collection on PWID.

The role of the civil society in the process of providing services to vulnerable groups of population - consultations, training of the population and conducting screening tests is extremely important.  Therefore, the "Intilish" NGO was given a special role at the workshop. The civil society representatives talked about medical and social aspects of HIV prevention among PWID, the civil society role in implementation of harm reduction programs, and in psychosocial support services for PWID.

In Uzbekistan, the Sub-Programme 3 of the UNODC Programme for Central Asia is implemented through financing of UBRAF (UNAIDS: Unified principles of budget, results and accountability). UNODC implements the number of activities with a focus on improving access, coverage and quality of services, advocacy, human rights and reducing stigma and discrimination in the country and in the region.

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