Innovative efforts to increase access to HIV info highlighted

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The 9th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2017) is highlighting innovative efforts to increase access to quality HIV information and services for communities heavily impacted by HIV, but often overlooked by government and community-based responses. This is taking place through awards, plenary addresses, research presentations and an official press conference.

Dozens of sessions and research presentations at IAS 2017 focus on the experiences of members of key populations and on the care providers and programmes that serve them. These address topics such as supporting men who have sex with men (MSM) to initiate HIV therapy in West Africa, providing stigma-free services to help people who inject drugs remain in HIV care in Ukraine and South Africa, supporting psychological and economic wellbeing and reducing HIV risk for female sex workers in Cambodia and ensuring access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for MSM and transgender women in Brazil.

Healthcare professionals are being honoured at IAS 2017 for their efforts to overcome HIV stigma and discrimination and to increase access to high-quality HIV prevention, treatment and care for key populations. They include the IAS Me and My Healthcare Provider champions and the recipients of the IAS and ViiV Healthcare Combating Stigma & Discrimination in Healthcare Settings Award.

“These dedicated care providers prove that HIV can be defeated when key populations have access to high-quality, stigma-free information and services,” IAS President Linda-Gail Bekker said. “Their examples encourage us to challenge the discriminatory laws, traditions and beliefs that allow HIV to flourish, and to do more to ensure effective, inclusive and comprehensive HIV services for key populations everywhere.”

Since its launch at the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) in Durban, South Africa, the IAS Me and My Healthcare Provider campaign has worked to build awareness of the extraordinary impact of HIV on key populations and to promote practical steps to overcome barriers to health services. The campaign puts a human face on the HIV response by recognizing outstanding healthcare professionals, nominated by members of key populations, who are #DoingTheRightThing to increase access to high-quality HIV prevention, treatment and care for their communities.

An IAS 2017 symposium, “#DoingTheRightThing: Addressing Stigma and Discrimination among Key Populations in Healthcare Settings” highlights the collaborative efforts of these IAS 2017 honourees and of the communities they serve to reduce HIV stigma and discrimination.

The Me and My Healthcare Provider champions honoured at IAS 2017 are: Luisa Ang, provincial installation pharmacy panager of the Provincial Health Office Papua, Jayapura, Indonesia, for her efforts to ensure consistent and timely access to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, including second-line therapies, for a patient population that includes people who inject drugs. Luisa was nominated by Aries Setyawan, who identifies as a person who formerly injected drugs. Aries described the difficulty he encountered in finding the second-line HIV treatments he needs in other facilities. He cited Luisa for her personal commitment to ensuring that all of her clients receive their treatments quickly, without interruption or prejudice; Stella Chege, nurse counsellor at the Minority Persons Empowerment Programme, which serves MSM and male sex workers in Thika, Kenya, for providing quality and compassionate healthcare to an often marginalised community. Stella was nominated by Belden Magare, who identifies as a man who has sex with men. Belden praised Stella for providing stigma-free and confidential services and for her willingness to “take a client problem as her personal obligation.” This helps her clients feel more comfortable receiving sexually transmitted infection and HIV services; and Neo Nametso Monnapula, social worker at the Nkaikela Youth Group in Gaborone, Botswana, for her work in supporting ARV adherence and addressing the multiple daily living needs of a client base that includes young female sex workers. Neo was nominated by Chedza Mudongo, who identifies as a sex worker. Chedza cited Neo’s dedication to her clients as the reason for her increased self-esteem and ability to adhere to her HIV medications.

Speaking at the press conference, Ambassador Deborah Birx, head of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programme, offered examples of innovative approaches to ensure quality HIV prevention, care and treatment services for members of key populations from the USAID– and PEPFAR-funded LINKAGES project, which works in 30 PEPFAR-supported countries.

LINKAGES is using enhanced peer outreach to help keep HIV-positive female sex workers in Botswana and Angola in care, partnering with local clinics and providers to improve HIV and sexual health services for MSM in Thailand, and addressing stigma in healthcare settings through an innovative text messaging system that asks members of key populations about their satisfaction with the care they receive.

Also at IAS 2017, IAS and its partner, ViiV Healthcare, presented the £100,000 IAS and ViiV Healthcare Combating Stigma & Discrimination in Healthcare Settings Award. The award recognises scalable best practices in healthcare delivery that treat every person with dignity and respect, and encourages new “proof of concept” innovations in the equitable treatment of members of key populations.

The recipients of the 2017 IAS/ViiV Healthcare award are: Doan Thanh Tung, director of Lighthouse Social Enterprise, and Le Minh Thanh, director of G-Link Vietnam, for their innovative efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination in Vietnam: zero discrimination and violence to zero HIV.

“Excellence in healthcare means providing sensitive, appropriate, high-quality service to all,” ViiV Healthcare CEO Deborah Waterhouse said. “When frontline healthcare workers and facilities welcome key populations, safeguard their rights and provide them with quality HIV care, our entire society benefits. By recognising the best-practice of providers who implement these important principles in their delivery of care, we want to encourage approaches that overcome stigma and discrimination towards key populations to improve access to health, opportunity and rights.”

IAS 2017 material

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