Network of Low HIV-Prevalence Countries of Central and Southeast Europe (NeLP) - Policy meeting, Budapest, June 25-27, 2011

NeLP is the Network of Low HIV-Prevalence Countries in Central and South East Europe.
The initiative for NeLP came from the HIV/AIDS programme of HCLU, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union.
East East: Partnership Beyond Borders Program of Foundations Open Society Institute provided funding for the Budapest meeting and the NeLP website (www.nelp-hiv.org) with additional support from EATG, the European AIDS Treatment Group and International HIV Partnerships.
I. Initial goals
The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union together with the European AIDS Treatment Group decided to organize a policy kick-off meeting and workshop on „Network of Low HIV-Prevalence Countries of Central and Southeast Europe (NeLP)” in May 2011. The initial goal of this initiative was to form a regional network of NGOs working in the field of HIV/AIDS as well as to create an online content in form of a website with country profiles on legislation, epidemiology and experiences of discrimination, to share information, good practices, to join forces in order to be able to put together further pressure on national governments in the future. Apart from that, we planned to put together the Budapest declaration, which was suppose to address key issues of the region discussed at the meeting: HIV-related stigma and discrimination in health care settings, in education, at work and in housing; and HIV-specific visa and residency restrictions. The declaration was aimed at policy makers, health care providers, community and the press.
For the implementation of this project the HCLU and the European AIDS Treatment Group has invited NGOs working in the field HIV/AIDS from: Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and Hungary. 
Our long term goal was to was to create a cooperation of involved NGOs that will help to increase general awareness of the issue in the general public and as a result reduce stigma severely affecting life of PLWHA in the region and most importantly will help to promote operable and efficient legal regulation in their home countries. 
Local impact was expected from the outcomes and results empowering local community to build campaigns that will concretely alter conditions for people facing HIV, change practices and attitudes in the region, reduce stigma severely affecting life of PLWHA and change relevant national legislation.
International impact was expected from the outcomes and results of a strong cooperation between participating NGOs and a unified advocacy to apply international guidelines and anti-discriminatory legislation in the region. Through the joint work and collaboration of the network, members could bring the topic of issues of low-prevalence to the European and International agenda of conferences, meetings and consultations.
The website was to serve as the monitoring tool for the anticipated impact of this initiative. The updates on change of legislation and practices and attitudes at the national level will be the indicators to measure the impact.
Apart from the above mentioned, we thought that this project could serve as a good example of how to use IT tools and community sites to strengthen projects, in particular to increase the level of information sharing before organizing a future workshop or meeting.
II. Final list of the participating NGOs and experts:
Albania - Olimbi Hoxhaj, the Albanian Network of People Living with HIV
Bosnia - Samir Ibisevic, Association PROI
Bosnia - Uliana Bakh, Association PROI director of woman program
Bulgaria - Ana Balkandjieva, EATG member
Czech Republic - Ivo Procházka, The Czech AIDS Help Society
Czech Republic - Max Blanck, The Czech AIDS Help Society
Greece - Marianella Kloka, Positive Voice 
Macedonia - Ninoslav Mladenovic, EATG member
Macedonia - Marija Tosheva, HOPS
Romania - Delia Codreanu, Asociatia SENS POZITIV 
Serbia - Nenad Petkovic, Q-Club  
Serbia- Milislav Milinkovic, Red Line
Slovakia - Eva Tinová, ODYSEUS 
Slovenia - Miran Solinc, SKUC Magnus
Turkey - Nejat Unlu, Positive Life Association
UK - Benjamin Collins, EATG
Germany - Peter Wiessner, EATG PWG co-chair
Belgium - Koen Block, EATG Executive Director
Belgium - Rubén Alonso, EATG
Hungary - Boglárka Federkó, Sex Workers Advocacy Associaton
Hungary - Ferenc Bagyinszky, HCLU
Hungary - Katalin Sós, HCLU/East-East Partnership Beyond Borders Program Coordinator
Hungary - Mészáros Márti, HCLU/MAIDS
Hungary - Aliya Rakhmetova, HCLU/SWAN
III. Evaluation 
Outcomes:
Although the project is still goes on for some months, we are now at the stage of evaluation and reporting so it is high time for us to draw our conclusions about our project. 
We have managed to produce a professional public website with the following contents: (please note that not all country profiles are uploaded yet, it is still under process) 
- country profiles with general information 
- epidemiological factsheets, 
- information on access to HIV therapy and treatment, 
- number of treatments centers, 
- number of doctor specialized in HIV treatment and care, 
- description of the aim of the National AIDS Strategy
- information on harm reduction services 
- best practices and methods
- country news and international news to HIV/AIDS issues gathered on one single surface.
- collection of relevant national laws 
Direct outcomes of the project are visible on the website.
Apart from the above mentioned we have managed to establish a cooperation of involved NGOs and professional background material such as the Budapest Declaration that might help all of us promote operable and efficient legal regulation in our home countries. In the Budapest Declaration we have managed to collect all the relevant and burning issues, problems that our countries of Central and Southeast Europe are facing at the moment and pointed out which are the most important actions needed to be taken as well as made concrete suggestions. With a better understanding and overview and therefore a greater lobby power, we are prepared to call more attention to serious HIV conditions in our regions, and will possibly try to influence not only the national but the international legislators as well. Through mutual support, information sharing, capacity building and coordinated activities, we will overcome the obstacles to quality treatment and care, comprehensive and evidence-based prevention programmes, and successful legislative reforms, which have troubled our regions for so long. 
IV. Follow-up activities:
On October 11, one day before the EACS conference in Belgrade, EATG organized a one-day policy meeting, as a follow-up meeting of the NeLP countries to discuss the future of the network and address the most urgent issues of the region. Besides the participants of the Budapest meeting, other NGO representatives and governmental, intergovernmental institutions were also present. At the end of the meeting the participants agreed to elect a small interim coordinating committee (ICC) to move forward the network and look for advocacy opportunities, funding and lead the communication of the network. After the meeting EATG issued a press release on the stock-out problems of the region.
The ICC decided to submit the NeLP initiative to the Global Commission on HIV and the Law asking them to consider low-prevalence issues as they develop policy. Several partners translated the Budapest Declaration into their national languages to promote the declaration at the local level. These translated documents will be collected and uploaded to the website. Apart from that we also would like to encourage the partners to send updates on their national activities or articles in English with regional relevance which are also can be posted in the news section of the website. 

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