“HIV: yesterday, today and tomorrow” in Kazakhstan

Speech given at the opening of the National Conference on “HIV: yesterday, today and tomorrow” in Almaty, October 12,  2016

Honorable Minister,

Distinguished colleagues,

I thank you for the invitation to this conference. I am truly pleased to be back in Kazakhstan on this occasion.

I wish to congratulate the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development of Kazakhstan and colleagues from UNAIDS, UNODC and Global Fund for taking the initiative of organizing the first National HIV Conference in the country: a unique opportunity to pause – to formally and honestly assess the situation of the epidemic, acknowledge the challenges and mobilize all energies of the country to fast track the AIDS response and move towards the goal of ending AIDS.

I also wish to pay tribute to the Honorable Salidat Kairbekova whom I remember well and who contributed so significantly to public health in Kazakhstan.

I congratulate the Republic of Kazakhstan for the progress made in recent years in the fight against HIV. The country has taken a number of key initiatives and each of them is an important step toward achieving the 2020 goals: transiting to a predominantly domestic funding of the AIDS response; initiating work on relevant investment cases; reducing the price of medicines through pooled procurement and opening the way for accessing generic medicines; funding NGOs through social contracting; continuously supporting harm reduction for people who use drugs despite pressure from some groups who refuse scientific evidence of its effectiveness. I welcome the recently announced plans for scaling up harm reduction in the country.

It remains however that vulnerable groups of the population, people who inject drugs, sex workers, men who have sex with men and prisoners continue to be highly and disproportionately affected by HIV. A comprehensive analysis of national epidemiological data is key for prioritizing prevention interventions. Since needle exchange programs, opioid substitutive therapy and antiretroviral treatment are synergistic to prevent HIV among people who use drugs, both OST and access to treatment for people who inject drugs should be significantly further scaled up in the country. Laws, policies and practices should be reviewed and if necessary revised, to allow implementation of healthcare for vulnerable populations. And social contracting of NGOs and communities of peers further expanded, building on programs such as those that the Global Fund has been funding here for many years.

Another challenge faced by the country and by the entire Eastern European and Central Asian region is that of increasing rates of TB-HIV co-infection. Integrated services, early detection and adapted treatment regimens can save lives, prevent more costly MDR TB and avoid disproportionate social burden/impact on communities.

And finally, I would like to call on Kazakhstan, as the primary receiver country of labor migrants in Central Asia, and as a leader in addressing the health needs of migrants in the region, to continue working on bilateral and multi lateral agreements that would allow access to care for HIV and TB of all in need and termination of health-related deportations across the Eastern European and Central Asian region.

Operationalizing the 2016-2019 State program “Densaulyk” will be key to setting the goals, implementing HIV prevention and treatment programs and addressing co-morbidity with TB, MDR-TB and hepatitis.

I truly believe that Kazakhstan is well positioned to achieve the 90-90-90 targets, thanks to political will and successful partnerships. Here I would like to also recognize the work of the UN country team and of bilateral and multilateral partners, including USAID and the Global Fund.

As we enter the Sustainable Development Goals era, the initiative of holding a national conference demonstrates Kazakhstan’s commitment to meet the UNAIDS 2020 targets and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals are the goals of all people for all people. It is for all of us here today to ensure that the journey is successful and its gains irreversible. This is what this Conference is about.

Thank you very much