Health systems' responses to 25 years of HIV in Europe: Inequities persist and challenges remain
Europe is currently experiencing the fastest rate of growth of HIV of any region of the world. An analysis of policy and health system responses to the HIV epidemic in Europe and central Asia (hereafter referred to as Europe) over the last 25 years reveals considerable heterogeneity. In general, while noting hazards of broad generalisations and the differences that exist across countries in a particular grouping, effective policies to control HIV have been implemented more widely in western than in central and eastern Europe. However, the evidence suggests persistence of inequalities in access to preventive and treatment services, with those at highest risk, such as commercial sex workers, prisoners, intravenous drug users, and migrants often particularly disadvantaged, despite many targeted programmes. Responses in individual countries, especially in the early stages of the epidemic, were influenced by specific cultural and political factors. Strong leadership and active involvement by civil society organisations emerge as important factors for success but also a limiting factor to the response observed in eastern Europe, where civil society or NGO culture is weak as compared to western Europe. Scaling up of effective responses in many countries in eastern Europe will be challenging--where increased financial resources will have to be accompanied by broader changes to health system organization with greater involvement of the civil society in planning and delivery of client-focused services.
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