AHF Europe Hosts Rapid HIV Testing Consultation in Tallinn

TALLINN, Estonia–(BUSINESS WIRE)–On Tuesday 21 June, stakeholders in the fight against HIV are coming
together to evaluate 6 years of AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s (AHF) work:
the introduction of HIV rapid testing in Estonia. As new national plans
are being developed to increase the utilization of rapid HIV tests and
linkage to care for key affected populations, AHF Europe and Estonian
partners will evaluate the impact of the introduction of this innovative
tool in Estonia in 2010, the first year of AHF Europe’s partnership with
the Estonian Network of People living with HIV (EHPV) and the national
Institute of Health Development (TAI).

Tuesday 21 June, 13.00 – 17.00
Park Inn by Radisson
Central, Narva maantee 7c, 10117 Tallinn

The AHF rapid testing model works: since 2010, almost 60,000 people have
been tested for HIV in Estonia, using the rapid, 60-second HIV test. The
test is easy and convenient in its use, and helps to lower the threshold
to get tested. Public testing events, testing in rehab centers, gay
clubs and shelters, have led to a change in perspective on how to tackle
the ongoing HIV epidemic in Estonia. To date, AHF has invested over 1
million euros in the rapid testing program in Estonia. Since then, 1,200
people learned their positive HIV-status and over 1 million free condoms
have been distributed.

During a parliamentary session held on 7 June, several plans were
discussed to enhance the use of the rapid testing tool. Amongst other
topics, allowing rapid tests to be administered by non-medical
professionals – which is a recommendation made by the WHO in July 2015 –
and developing a framework for GPs to include rapid testing in their
practice, accessible for anyone visiting. “These are very encouraging
plans,” said Zoya Shabarova, AHF Europe Bureau Chief. “After
we started working in Estonia, the Estonian government decided to
include HIV rapid testing into the national testing strategy. We are
grateful for the fruitful collaboration over the past years, and we are
holding this consultation to discuss if there is any need from the
Estonian government and civil sector for continued support.”

“In order to reach the ambitious goal to eradicate HIV in 2030, a lot
still needs to be done in Estonia, mainly in reaching vulnerable groups,
such as men having sex with men, sex workers and people using drugs,”
said Anna Zakowicz,
AHF Europe Deputy Bureau Chief. “Many people are
not being reached through traditional channels; we need innovation and
an accessible care-system.” Although the number of new HIV diagnoses has
dropped substantially over the last decade, from 1,474 in 2001 to 291 in
2015, still a very limited number of people in need of treatment
actually receive it: out of approximately 9,000 people living with HIV
in Estonia, a third of them receive life-saving treatment.

AHF Europe and EHPV opened an HIV clinic in Narva in 2013, and in
cooperation with Iva-Viruum Regional Hospital, started providing
treatment to people living with HIV in 2015. In Narva, where the
epidemic is the biggest in the country, only an estimated 20% of people
living with HIV are receiving the life-saving treatment they need; this
has devastating consequences for the local community. Many patients are
dependent on drugs, have no stable jobs and live in an unstable social
environment. “This community needs a comprehensive care model that is
low-threshold and includes social and mental support as well,” said
Zakowicz. “If we recognize this and incorporate these lessons into
policies, we will be able to make a true change.”

Both Aljona Kurbatova, Head of the Infectious Diseases and Drug Abuse
Prevention Department of TAI, and Anna Zakowicz from AHF Europe, will
present new data on rapid testing in Estonia since 2010. Discussions
will focus on the needs of communities at risk, the current gaps in HIV
testing provision and actions to address them. The ministry of health
will be represented through Anna Liisa Pääsukene.

About AHF

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS
healthcare provider in the USA. AHF currently provides medical care
and/or services to over 650,000 individuals in 36 countries worldwide in
the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. For more
information, visit www.aidshealth.org,
find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth
and follow us on Twitter: @AIDSHealthcare.


AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Nina Schat, EU Marketing and
Advocacy Manager

+31 629622437
Talva-Ots, Project Manager

+372 514 7917