26 July, 2018, Amsterdam, The Netherlands — The European African Treatment Advocates Network (EATAN), in partnership with Treatment Action Group (TAG) and other migrant-focused organizations, hosted the European African HIV & Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Community Summit 2018. The Summit was organised as an AIDS 2018 Pre-Independent Affiliated event, taking place on 21-22 July 2018 in Amsterdam, and attended by 42 delegates from across the EU, and with 10 technical experts from the EU and North America.
The Summit aimed to launch a campaign for a European African consensus statement on migrant communities’ inclusion in decision-making processes and to develop enduring cooperation and commitment towards HIV and hepatitis C elimination. With new treatment regimens that treat all genotypes, or all genetic variations, of the hepatitis C virus, an opportunity exists to make HCV elimination a reality. To fast-track elimination, the Summit considered the diverse healthcare policy landscape among EU states, patient education and empowerment practices, barriers to accessing affordable diagnostics, treatment, and care for migrants, and treatment advocacy and activism strategies needed to catalyse policy changes.
“There should be a policy and clear protocol on people living with HIV and hepatitis C. Lack of this is a pointer to discrimination and exclusion of these people from essential services…HIV/HVC is not only a threat to the lives of those living with these conditions but to the public, in general,” said Dr. Iris Shiripinda, Secretary General at EATAN.
Koen Block, Executive Director at the European AIDS Treatment Group, said, “More than ever this conference has shown how important it is to reach out to – and collaborate with – key populations such as migrants to effectively fight HIV and other infections, such as hepatitis C. Including the community can really make a difference.”
The Summit delegates also learned about the role of community involvement in impacting HIV/HCV policies and micro-elimination processes. The network has the potential to influence policies aimed at affordable, equitable, and effective treatment and diagnoses for this key population and the myriad structural barriers and social injustices they face.
“Marginalisation and criminalisation of migrant communities is not a public health policy. The voices of migrant communities, particularly people living with hepatitis C and people who use drugs, must be centred in national viral hepatitis plans and in developing strategies to ensure the most optimal, affordable treatments and diagnostics are available for everyone who needs them,” said Bryn Gay, HCV Project Co- Director at Treatment Action Group (TAG). “The community summit was an essential step in strengthening the technical knowledge of treatment advocates and ensuring the latest scientific research could be translated and utilised by treatment advocates, migrant community members, and people living with HIV/HCV to affect policy changes needed for eliminating hepatitis C in this overlooked, marginalised population.”
Delegates had the opportunity to share ideas with experts from the European Union, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, National Health Service in England, among others.
“[There] was a unified voice of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees at the summit. This summit came at the right time when advocates in the UK are dealing with the hostile environment created by the UK government against the above-mentioned groups of people. There can never be progress in health care in Europe when migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees are being stigmatised, scapegoated, and denied access to basic health care,” stated Edwin Sesange, Director at the African Equality Foundation.
Participants agreed that pharmaceutical companies, governments, health care professionals, and health care purchasers must commit to opportunities that ensure that HIV and HCV medicines are immediately available and accessible to all.
The sponsorship from ViiV Healthcare Europe Ltd, Gilead Sciences Europe Ltd, the Ganda Foundation, Radio Kyeyo Amsterdam, and Hotel Aalsmeer is acknowledged by EATAN for convening the community summit.
About Treatment Action Group (TAG): TAG is an independent, activist, and community-based research and policy think tank fighting for better treatment and prevention, a vaccine, and a cure for HIV, TB, and hepatitis C virus (HCV). TAG works to ensure that all people with HIV, TB, and HCV receive lifesaving treatment, care, and information. We are science-based treatment activists working to expand and accelerate vital research and effective community engagement with research and policy institutions.
About EATAN: European African Treatment Advocates Network (EATAN) is an exciting Europe-wide initiative founded in 2012 by a team of treatment advocates passionate about improving the health and social care outcomes of Africans living in Europe who are affected by HIV, viral Hepatitis and TB. We are motivated to promote patient involvement, reduce stigma and discrimination and enhance access to culturally sensitive health and social care professionals; through developing and implementing a range of innovative policies and practices that ensure Africans living in Europe achieve empowerment, the ability to make informed choices, an unrestricted attainment of health and social care and an improvement of physical and emotional well- being.