On 24-27 April 2018 in the framework of the CITIES project, very unique exchange visit took place in Tbilisi, Georgia. The city was visited by a six-member delegation from Almaty. Delegates were presented only from community and NGO organizations: Roman Dudnik – Executive Director of Public Foundation ‘AIDS Foundation East-West in Kazakhstan’, Roza Oleynikova – President of Social Foundation ‘Trust Plus’ (component of PWIDs), Natalia Zholnerova – Director of Public Association ‘Amelia’, representative of SWAN network (component of SWs), Elena Bilokon President of the ‘Kazahkstan Network of Women Living with HIV’, representative of the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS (component of PWIDs), Melnikov Ivan – friendly doctor, Suslov Svyatoslav – the head of the NGO ‘Friends’ (MSM component). The agenda of the visit included meetings with the local coordinating NGO ‘Tanadgoma’, the Municipal Center for Diseases Surveillance and Control and Infectious Diseases, AIDS & Clinical Immunology Research Center but mostly was concentrated on the non-governmental and community organizations.
The visit was designed to give opportunities to participants to reflect and review what they had learnt from the visit and what could have been done better to ensure risk populations universal access to diverse HIV and TB preventive, medical and care services. The objective of the visit was to understand how local community and NGO organizations managed to scale up such a large coverage with services for key populations, ensuring broad and diverse access to prevention and care. Main achievement of community organizations in Tbilisi is that they managed to provide medical services (HIV, HCV, HBV and syphilis screening, dental services, liver fibroscan procedure) on the basis of their organizations’ offices, this was the new experience for delegates, as community organizations in Almaty has no experience to provide such kind of medical services so far.
Both countries encountered the great dependence on international funding. In aim to address this problem, Georgia has developed a transition plan in response to gradual reductions of the Global Fund funding over the years. The goal of the Georgian Transition Plan is to ensure a smooth transitioning to full domestic funding of the HIV and TB programs by 2022 without compromising services. However, the plan does not specify which services the government is taking over or when. In this transition period, city’s commitments will ensure more equitable, inclusive, prosperous and sustainable future for risk populations. Delegates shared some experience how city-funded HIV/TB services work in Almaty and how the municipalities have been involved in the implementation of the HIV prevention programs during the transition period of the Global Fund. Thanks to this involvement, in 2017 Almaty signed Paris declaration and preparing to develop City Plan for sustainable HIV/TB response for key populations.
Delegates from Almaty and local NGO community evaluated the exchange visit as useful and motivating for their future plans.