Since May 2016, the ALE “Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV” has launched the project “Access to rapid HIV testing on the basis of NGOs in Kazakhstan”. The project is carried out with the support of the Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia Corporate Fund, which provides sponsorship from the funds of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The main goal of the project is to create a favorable legal environment for the provision of HIV rapid testing services based on NGOs in the Republic of Kazakhstan to improve access to this service for key populations.
“Today in Kazakhstan there is no legal basis for the introduction of rapid testing for HIV infection on the basis of NGOs. And this is a resource that can significantly increase the coverage of HIV testing. Now in the countries of Europe and Central Asia, on average, every third person living with HIV does not know about their status, and every second HIV-positive person is diagnosed late, ”said Nurali Amanzholov, president of the Kazakhstan Union of People Living with HIV ALE.
Only AIDS Centers can conduct HIV testing in Kazakhstan. There are such institutions in every city. But the problem is that people in key groups living with HIV are in no hurry to go there. NGOs are more open organizations and more credible.
In many regions of the Republic of Kazakhstan, NGOs are actively working, which implement projects to provide assistance and support to groups at high risk of HIV infection. HIV testing is one of the key factors in the effectiveness of these projects. Therefore, the availability of this service on the basis of these organizations will help not only increase the coverage of HIV tested, but also increase the quality level of the projects being implemented.
The public fund “Answer” from Ust-Kamenogorsk has been providing services to key population groups for over 7 years: drug users, former convicts, sex workers and people living with HIV. All of them, unfortunately, are still a highly stigmatized part of society. And very often they have problems with access to certain vital services.
“Our employees are often asked the question -“ Can you take an HIV test from me yourself? ” It is very difficult for people who use drugs to bring them to the AIDS Center to take an HIV test as they are basically busy all day looking for funds for the next dose of drugs. At the same time, both sexual and injecting partners want to know their HIV status and do not refuse to be tested. It just turns out that access to testing is difficult for them. Express testing on the basis of NGOs will allow many people to take an HIV test without fear and at a convenient time, find out their status and receive professional counseling in a confidential atmosphere, ”said Natalya Rudakvas, head of the Answer PF.
The main advantage of any NGO is work in the “field” and on the “peer-to-peer” principle. All specialists of the organization are trained at the appropriate seminars and trainings. This will further contribute to the interest of clients with a positive test result to register for dispensary and receive the full range of necessary medical services.
Within the framework of the project “Access to rapid HIV testing on the basis of NGOs in Kazakhstan”, an analysis of barriers to the introduction of rapid testing on the basis of NGOs in the Republic of Kazakhstan was carried out, and now work is underway on methodological recommendations and a draft order that should legislatively consolidate this initiative. There will be clearly spelled out the rules by which this system will operate, all requirements and control methods. Representatives of the Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Republican Center for the Prevention and Control of AIDS, leading international organizations dealing with HIV in Kazakhstan, as well as NGOs themselves are actively involved in this process. Thanks to the project, there is a good chance to include an NGO-based rapid HIV testing service in the national testing algorithm, which is also currently being revised by the Ministry of Health and Social Development. This will allow NGOs to more efficiently attract funding to provide this service to their clients, including through government funding. Thus, ensuring the stability of both the service itself and the NGO as a whole.
“The nongovernmental sector should play a major role in rapid testing for HIV infection. Thanks to the activities of public organizations, testing among vulnerable groups of the population will increase, which will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the efficiency of the use of financial resources and the epidemiological situation in general, ”said Baurzhan Baiserkin, General Director of the Republican Center for the Prevention and Control of AIDS.