ECOM experts held a meeting with Armenian public organizations implementing Global Fund projects for MSM (men who have sex with men). The meeting, held as part of the #SoS_project 2.0 project, was devoted to three main issues.
Cascade of HIV services for MSM
ECOM, together with the humanitarian NGO “New Generation”, has been analyzing the cascade of HIV services for MSM since 2018. The dynamics of cascades allow national partners to better plan services for the next year and include them in future projects. The analysis identified that there is a low percentage of people receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) who have achieved a zero viral load; this indicator was only 45%. This means that more than half of MSM in Armenia taking ART continue to put other people at risk of infection.
Some possible reasons for this situation may be a lack of awareness of the need to take medication regularly and the centralization of medical services in Armenia. Until recently, it was only possible to get ART in the capital, although there were recent reports about the opening of centers providing therapy in two more cities. The issues of adherence and the low percentage of people who achieve viral suppression remain relevant and require additional research.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PrEP)
The pre-exposure prophylaxis situation in Armenia turned out to be difficult compared to other countries in the region. At the time of the meeting, only 22 people had received pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV through Global Fund projects. The main difficulty is that PrEP is a paid service in the country. While the medications themselves are free, services, tests, and consultations with doctors require additional funds that many MSM and trans people do not have.
"Pre-exposure prophylaxis is one of the most effective HIV prevention tools, both among key populations and the general population. As part of our strategy and mission, ECOM calls for MSM and transgender people to have access to adequate and effective health care tools. Recently, we reviewed the protocol for the provision of pre-exposure prophylaxis in Armenia to ensure that it meets the latest WHO standards.
We are currently discussing a strategy to create demand and inform the community about PrEP. It is important to remember that this is beneficial for both states and communities. After all, prevention is always cheaper and easier than lifelong treatment. Considering that our goal is healthy communities with a high quality of life, we always support PrEP as an effective tool and advocate for its distribution,” noted Elena German, ECOM’s Capacity Building Coordinator.
Armenia’s application for a Global Fund country grant
Armenia plans to apply for a Global Fund country grant by the end of 2023. At the meeting, the strategy for including PrEP in the national HIV prevention program, as well as ways to create demand for this service among the population, were discussed. Informational campaigns and other measures to inform communities about pre-exposure prophylaxis are seen as an important step in creating demand for the service.
Publication prepared by ECOM and published as part of the Regional project “Sustainability of services for key populations in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia” (SoS_project 2.0), implemented by a consortium of organizations led by the Alliance fir Public Health in partnership with the CO “100% Life”, with financial support from the Global Fund. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of the consortium organizations as well as the Global Fund. The Global Fund was not involved in agreeing and approving either the material itself or the possible conclusions from it.