In 2017, 130 000 people acquired HIV in countries of eastern Europe and central Asia. Since 2010, the number of new infections has increased by 29%, making it the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the world.
This region also faces the highest levels of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in the world: 1 in 6 newly diagnosed and 1 in 2 previously treated TB patients are estimated to have MDR-TB. It is also heavily affected by chronic hepatitis C virus infection, and accounts for the largest proportion of HIV-infected people with past or present hepatitis C infections.
Ministries of health, civil society representatives, and industry and technical partners from eastern Europe and central Asia met on 20–22 November 2018 in Minsk, Belarus, at the Regional Consultation on Expanding Access to Affordable and Quality Assured Medicines and Diagnostic Technologies. Together they discussed the progress they have made in this area towards curbing the epidemics of HIV, TB and viral hepatitis.
The Consultation was hosted by the Government of Belarus and co-organized by the Global Fund to Flight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); WHO; and key partners.
“Closing the gap to cost-effective, equitable and sustainable access to quality medicines and diagnostic technologies requires further effective collaboration and political leadership in the eastern European and central Asian Member States,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, in her opening remarks at the high-level consensus-building meeting on 22 November, the third day of the Consultation.
High-level representatives from the Global Fund, the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, the Stop TB Partnership, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Development Programme and UNAIDS provided their perspectives.
Developments in countries
The Consultation provided an opportunity for participants to share the specific measures they have taken to expand access to these medicines and diagnostic technologies. For example, Belarus has been consistently working on building local manufacturing capacity; Kazakhstan is working to introduce integrated health information systems and innovative drug delivery models; and Ukraine has significantly increased access to diagnostic technologies and treatment by revising regulatory frameworks, increasing domestic financing and using international procurement mechanisms.
Other countries of eastern Europe and central Asia are also moving steadily towards simplifying entry into the market for medicines prequalified by WHO and approved by stringent regulatory authorities. All participants stressed the need for political will in order to make progress. Building on these good practices, WHO and partners will scale up their support to help countries end these epidemics by 2030.
Regional Director’s visit to Belarus
During her 2-day visit, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab also met with Vice-Prime Minister Mr Igor Petrishenko, Minister of Health Dr Valery Malashko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Andrei Dapkiunas, Mayor of Minsk Mr Andrey Shorets and United Nations Resident Coordinator in Belarus Ms Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki.
In addition to strengthening access to affordable, quality-assured medicines and advanced diagnostic technologies for HIV, TB and viral hepatitis, they discussed the modernization of health systems, the strengthening of primary care services, actions to address noncommunicable diseases, the process of Minsk joining the European Healthy Cities Network, United Nations reform and other areas of collaboration with WHO.