UNDP and GFATM gathered project professionals from Southeast Europe, Central Asia and Pacific in Montenegro
With an aim to strengthen program management capacities in countries where UNDP is a primary recipient of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) grants, a four-day regional workshop has been organized in Montenegro.
The workshop saw participation of more than 50 representatives from UNDP Country Offices of Southeast Europe, Central Asia and Pacific, as well as from the GFATM and the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network. The participants got firsthand information about the GFATM new funding model, and they exchanged experiences about positive practices but also about specific issues and difficulties they are facing across their regions.
It is no coincidence that Montenegro has been selected to host this gathering: the UNDP has been acting as country’s primary recipient of the GFATM funds for nearly eight years now. From 2006-2011, together with national partners, the UNDP Country Office successfully implemented the so called Round 5 of HIV Grant in the amount of €2.4 million and the Round 6 of Tuberculosis Grant worth €1.3 million. Currently, the Round 9 of HIV Grant is in its 4th implementation year.
In his opening speech, Minister of Health at the Government of Montenegro Dr Miodrag Radunović said that the UNDP was recognized as a reliable and technically strong partner by all HIV and TB stakeholders in the country.
"The existing National Strategic Response to HIV/AIDS in Montenegro for the period 2010-2014 was developed in cooperation with the UN Theme Group for AIDS. The strategy is based on the results and achievements of the previous strategy (2005-2009), and significant portion of the funds for its implementation has been provided through the Round 9 of Grant funds. As the implementation of this strategy ends in June 2015 and the prospects for further financial support from the GFATM are not so good, in order to ensure financial sustainability and continuity of service we have intensified efforts to integrate the activities and services established within these two Grants into existing national systems, particularly health and education," Minister Radunović pointed out.
Mr. Rastislav Vrbensky, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro, emphasized that UNDP, through its primary recipient role, has identified all advantages and disadvantages of its implementing partners, both governmental and non-governmental.
"Based on those assessments we are providing continuous support to the capacity building of all the actors in the national HIV and TB response in order to ensure quality implementation of Grant activities resulting in an excellent rating of all the implemented Grants. UNDP firmly contributed to a stronger collaboration between governmental and non-governmental organizations. This was rather a novelty at the beginning of the first Grant implementation. Now, we have an active cooperation between health institutions and NGOs, especially in the field of bio-behavioral surveys and provision of VCT services and increased access for most at risk populations to the available health services," said Mr. Vrbensky.
Thanks to the support of GFATM, many activities have been implemented and fully integrated into the health and education system of Montenegro. Some of them are: introduction of Healthy Life Styles as an optional subject in primary and secondary schools; 3 fully functioning methadone maintenance treatment centers with 3 more to be opened by the end of February 2014; 8 voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) centers to ensure full diagnostics and monitoring of the HIV status of HIV patients.
Some results of UNDP’s collaboration with the GFATM in Montenegro:
The Round 9 of HIV Programme includes service provision through drop-in centers and outreach work for injecting drug users, sex workers, men who have sex with men, Roma and Egyptian youth, merchant marines and prisoners. More than 700 professionals were trained in different aspects of HIV response, including HIV treatment, voluntary counseling and testing for HIV, survey methodologies, gender aspects of HIV response, harm reduction programs etc. Regular bio-behavioral surveys (BBS) are conducted among the most at risk population groups (every two years).
Results in 2013:
• More than 1000 clients were counseled and tested for HIV in 8 VCT centers in Montenegro, showing steady increase in the number of clients from most-at-risk populations, especially from the population of men who have sex with men (MSM).
• More than 250 clients were provided with methadone maintenance treatment.
• More than 1000 injecting drug users, 250 MSM, 220 sex workers (SW), 60 clients of SW, 1700 merchant marines, and 1600 Roma and Egyptian young people were provided with the basic HIV prevention package (needles and syringes, condoms, lubricants, IEC material) as well as counselling services and referals to relevant health and social services.
• Two bio-behavioral surveillance surveys among most-at-risk populations were successfully conducted. For the first time in Montenegro a BBS survey among Roma and Egyptians aged 15-24 with 400 respondents was conducted, and no HIV case was found. The other one was a BSS among merchant marines with 1131 respondents, and the HIV prevalence among them was 0.6% (2 HIV positive results out of 329 tested).