Bishkek becomes first Central Asian capital to join Fast-Track Cities

Bishkek becomes first Central Asian capital to join Fast-Track Cities

In July, the deputy mayor of the capital of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan signed the Paris Declaration to end the AIDS epidemic. This is a major milestone for key populations in Kyrgyzstan and stimulates Bishkek to achieve the 90-90-90 goals. The declaration gives key populations a mechanism to advocate for increasing access to existing social support free of stigma and discrimination.

“I am pleased to be here on behalf of the entire community of people living with HIV in Kyrgyzstan,” says Yevgeny Yuldashev, a peer consultant of AFEW Kyrgyzstan.

 

Often we are invisible, or society pretends that they don’t see us, or they don’t want to see us. But we exist, we are people too. The signing of the Paris Declaration, I hope, will draw the attention of the mayor’s office and other officials to the problems of HIV-positive people.

 

Traditionally, all social support activities for key populations were supported by international donors. However, rapid decrease of international funding puts social support services like shelters and half-way houses at risk. To date, the office of the Mayor hasn't funded these activities, but this welcome commitment will provide essential services to those most in need.

The signing of the declaration, which was organised with the support of PITCH partner AFEW Kyrgyzstan, commits cities to strategically partner with key populations, provide sustainable access to HIV testing services, treatment and prevention, and fight stigma and discrimination.

Speaking at the event, Tatyana Kuznetsova, vice mayor of the city of Bishkek said: “For us, this is a very important event, for our city, for the whole country. This initiative is very relevant for large cities. Bishkek is the administrative, cultural and scientific centre of the country. Improving the health and well-being of the citizens is the most important task of our municipality”.

Community advocacy delivers results
In the run-up to the signing, AFEW Kyrgyzstan mobilised the local community to advocate for signing of the declaration at high-level meetings with municipal authorities. With the highest concentration of key population groups in the county, focused interventions in Bishkek are key to addressing the epidemic.

“Our work coincided with the decision to enlarge the scope of work of the municipal department on public health, who became our number one ally in lobbying for the declaration within the Mayor's office,” according to Dina Masalimova, AFEW project coordinator in Bishkek.

What is next for AFEW?

“We are currently conducting a community-based research to identify the basic needs of people living with HIV in Bishkek. The findings will become the basis of the City HIV Program, which will be developed by a new working group consisting of the municipal officials and community representatives. However, the most important step for AFEW is to secure funding for the programme. Dina Masalimova says: “We need to work with the Bishkek City Council in order to convince deputies of the council to allocate money to support key population groups.” AFEW hopes that Osh - the second biggest city in Kyrgyzstan - will follow Bishkek and sign the declaration by the end of the year.

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