Civil Society Condemns Russia's Hosting of Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference

Eighteen civil society groups from across Europe have condemned in an open letter the staging of next year's Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) AIDS Conference in Russia, highlighting the host's open opposition to evidence-based approaches to HIV prevention.

The conference, set to be held next year in Moscow from March 23-25, takes place against the backdrop of skyrocketing HIV rates in Russia. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of people with HIV almost doubled from 500,000 to 930,000, and the head of Russia's state AIDS center has predicted this figure could hit 3 million within the next five years.

In its open letter to UNAIDS, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the World Bank, among others, civil society groups state:

"This conference must not be held in the country [Russia] where the law contradicts what we know is humane and effective in countering HIV. For 22 years International AIDS Conferences were not held in the USA because of its law limiting travel by people living with HIV which contradicted good practice in human rights and public health. Only once this law was abrogated was the conference held there."

Underscoring their opposition to the choice of host country, the letter goes on to criticize Russia's homophobic laws and continued opposition to opioid substitution therapy (OST), noting how both are fueling the HIV crisis in the country. Ultimately, the letter requests that those to whom it is addressed "renounce [their[ participation in EECAC – 2016," going on to state:

"We do not need a conference that is used for achievement of geopolitical goals and satisfaction of political ambitions of Russia; we need access to HIV prevention and treatment; we need evidence-based programs and protection of our rights and respect for our communities!"

You can read the full letter, here.