UNDP and the Global Fund sign US$8.7m grant with the Ministry of Public Health to scale up HIV prevention measures in Afghanistan

Jul 13, 2016

Kabul, July 13, 2016— The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund signed a US$8.7 million grant with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health to scale up HIV prevention measures and treatment for people most at risk of contracting the virus in Afghanistan, including injecting drugs users and prisoners.

Though HIV infection rates across the general population in Afghanistan are low, the epidemic continues to spread among key populations at higher risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). For example, injecting drug use is a major driver of HIV infections in Afghanistan, a country that is also the world’s leading producer of opium and heroin.

A combination of injecting practices involving the use of non-sterile equipment, high-risk sexual behaviour, punitive policies and stigma towards people who inject drugs are fuelling the epidemic. The most recently available drug use survey showed that eight per cent of the population aged 15-64 is dependent on drugs, with significant increases in the number of people who use opium and heroin.

“With this grant we’ll be able to expand treatment and care for people living with HIV, boost our prevention efforts and raise awareness among vulnerable groups that are key to controlling and reversing the HIV epidemic,” said H.E. Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz, Minister of Public Health. “Global Fund and UNDP are making a key contribution in our fight against the HIV plight in Afghanistan.”

In addition, different sources suggest that men with high-risk sexual behaviour may play a larger role in HIV transmission than previously thought. They also experience stigma and discrimination in their own families and communities, and are confronted with punitive laws, prosecution and a lack of access to HIV prevention services.

“Without reducing stigma associated with drug use, and implementing prevention programmes that treat every person with dignity, compassion, and respect, regardless of circumstance or condition, Afghanistan’s efforts to curb the HIV epidemic will fall short. We need to go the extra mile and this new grant will help us do it,” said Douglas Keh, UNDP Afghanistan Country Director.

The new Global Fund grant will be implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health and the National Aids Control Program, the Ministry of Interior Affairs, provincial health offices, and non-governmental organizations. It will provide treatment and care for people living with HIV, expand existing prevention services for the general population and focus on groups at higher risk. The grant will run until the end of 2017, and will aim to keep HIV prevalence below 0.1 per cent among the general population, and below five per cent among key populations at high risk.

Comprehensive harm reduction services for people who inject drugs will be provided under the grant, including in prison settings where needle and syringe exchange programmes are currently not allowed. The grant will increase the availability and coverage of opioid substitution therapy (OST) through services in drop-in centres in communities and prisons. OST, which replaces illegal opiates with prescribed medicines, is an effective method to decrease HIV transmission by reducing risks associated with the injection of drugs, and to foster adherence to HIV treatment among people who use drugs, while also improving their quality of life.

To address high levels of stigma and discrimination related to HIV and drug use, the grant will strengthen legal and policy environments in order to promote access to HIV prevention, treatment and support for people vulnerable to and affected by HIV, securing their meaningful involvement in the response to HIV in Afghanistan.

The grant will be key to achieving the national strategic plan for control of HIV and AIDS as well as the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target. It will also contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015 by world leaders and in particular Goal 3 on Good Health and Well-being.e to start editing

Contact information

Jalaluddin Kasaat

UNDP Afghanistan; jalaluddin.kasaat@undp.org; +93799450630

Mohamad Ismail Kawusi

Ministry of Public Health; mi_kawusi@yahoo.com; +93792888855

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