Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice
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Follow up letter to UNAIDS after EECAAC 2016

As you may know the 5th Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference took place in Moscow at the end of March. In advance to this conference 18 international, regional and national organizations sent an open letter to the members of the organization committee of this conference calling them to renounce their participation in it because of the Russia’s open opposition to the effective evidence-based approaches to HIV prevention among key affected populations (KAPs), particulary among people who use drugs, and for many other reasons.
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What you probably don’t know is that a bit more then a week in advance to this conference the MoH of Russian Federation (one of the key partners of the conference) issued its official Position on Opioid Substitution Maintenance Therapy. In its position MoH tries to present OST as non-evidence based approach which is not widely supported by the majority of countries in the world and which is also ineffective in terms of HIV prevention among IDUs.
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That is why ARF, CALN and a number of their partner organizations from different parts of the world decided to prepare and send another open letter to UNAIDS as a co-organizer of this conference and consistent supporter of Russia’s HIV related activities in the region asking if it is going to react on this Position of MoH and also asking to share the plan of UNAIDS for mitigating the obvious negative human rights and health consequences of Russia’s non-evidence-based and harmful approach to responding to the epidemic at both the country and regional levels.
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The text of this letter goes below. You may download the letter in PDF.
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Michel Sidibe

Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

20 Avenue Appia

1211 Geneva 27

Switzerland

 

Vinay P. Saldanha

UNAIDS Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Leontyevsky lane, 9

125009, Moscow

The Russian Federation

 

08.04.2016.

Dear colleagues,

With this letter, we would like to continue the communication we started in advance of the 5th Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference (EECAAC 2016)[1] regarding the ongoing actions of the Russian Government to openly and actively denounce key evidence-based HIV prevention methods.

As civil society organizations working for access to HIV prevention treatment and care services and protection of human rights of key affected populations we would like to inform you about yet another recent alarming development in Russia which happened on the margins of EECAAC 2016 which recently took place in Moscow and was co-organized by UNAIDS.

On March 14, 2016 the Ministry of Health of Russian Federation (MoH) published its official explicitly negative Position on opioid substitution treatment (OST)[2]. In its Position, the MoH characterizes OST as a non-evidence-based approach that should not be widely used by the majority of countries in the world. It also tries to create the impression of a tendency among countries to refuse to implement OST programs as well as harm reduction approaches. More importantly, in its Position, the MoH also tries to create the misleading impression that OST is not only an ineffective approach to HIV prevention among people who use opioids, but in fact the opposite – that OST is a possible cause of the spread of HIV infection among people who inject drugs in some of those countries where it is implemented. Apart from the very disturbing fact that the Ministry bases its opinion on misleading facts and blatantly false data, Russia is actively communicating this position to other EECA countries to arm OST opponents.

Subsequently, on March 23, 2016 during the opening session of the EECAAC 2016, the Director of the Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS) Victor Ivanov repeatedly announced[3] the FDCS’ plans for legal reforms aimed at subjecting up to 5 million people who use drugs under the mandatory drug rehabilitation. Mr. Ivanov explicitly mentioned that such a measure is necessary as a response to the growing epidemic of HIV in Russia among people who use drugs. As you know, Mr. Ivanov was a keynote speaker during the EECAAC 2016. This fact, as well as the MoH’s official position against OST and its complete lack of support for provision of other harm reduction services, leaves no doubts that the key message of Russia to EECAAC participants and other international actors is that the core of the response to rapidly growing HIV epidemics in Russia and other countries in the region should be mandatory rehabilitation for people who use drugs.

Given such a clear and disturbing message from the Russian government, we wonder if we could expect any official reaction from UNAIDS regional office on this Position of MoH of Russian Federation and request that you share the plan of UNAIDS for mitigating the obvious negative human rights and health consequences of Russia’s non-evidence-based and harmful approach to responding to the epidemic at both the country and regional levels.

Sincerely,

Anya Sarang

President 

Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice (Russia)

Richard Elliott

Executive Director 

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Dr. Rick Lines

Executive Director 

Harm Reduction International

Christine Stegling

Executive Director 

International HIV/AIDS Alliance

Alena Asaeva

On behalf of the Steering Committee 

Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs (ENPUD)

Sergey Votyagov

Executive Director 

Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN)

NGO with the Special Consultative Status with Economic and Social Council(ECOSOC)

Anke van Dam

Executive Director 

AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW)

Robin Montgomery

Executive Director  

Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD)

Andriy Klepikov

Executive Director 

Alliance for Public Health (Ukraine)

Niamh Eastwood

Executive Director 

Release (UK)

Latsin Alijev

Director 

NGO Estonian Network PLWHIV

Olga Belyaeva

Head of Board 

Association of Substitution Treatment Advocates of Ukraine

 

[1] http://en.rylkov-fond.org/blog/arf-advocacy/arf-advocacy-national/eecaac2016en/

[2] Please find the unofficial translation of the MoH Position on OST attached to this letter

[3] Speech of Victor Ivanov at the opening session of EECAAC 2016 is available at http://www.fskn.gov.ru/includes/periodics/events_main/2016/0323/045843287/detail.shtml



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