USAID launches HIV React Project in Kyrgyzstan to reduce HIV in prisons

On September 17, 2014, the AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW) and USAID launched the HIV React Project in Bishkek.  The HIV React Project is a two-year regional program that seeks to expand the services available to strengthen prison-based HIV prevention, treatment, and care services, with a special focus on people who use intravenous drugs and those living with HIV in detainment settings.  The project will use a well-tested model of support for prisoners before and after release, which will serve as a bridge from prison to society and minimize the risks of contracting HIV.

At the opening workshop organized by the AFEW in Kyrgyzstan, representatives of the State Penitentiary Service, Republican Narcology Center, Republican AIDS Center, Ministry of Health, and civil society learned about the project and discussed health conditions in the country’s prison facilities as well as joint measures to prevent socially significant diseases in prison populations.

HIV transmission in Central Asia is driven by intravenous drug use in urban centers and along drug transport corridors from Afghanistan.  HIV rates are higher among prisoners than in the general public because of limited access to healthcare, higher rates of drug use with contaminated syringes, and lack of options for safe sexual practices.  Re-entry into society following incarceration poses additional challenges, as those living with HIV are often released with minimal supplies of medication and without transitional support, thus leading to poor health outcomes and increased risk of further transmission.

Within two years, the project will assist over 11 thousand people from 16 prisons in eight regions of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.  HIV React is being implemented by the AFEW Network led by AFEW-Kazakhstan with the financial support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).