Latest News and Info

Announcing our Mind the Gap: Migrant HIV Summit!

Organised by Africa Advocacy Foundation and its Parceria Mi-Health HIV, the first annual Mind the Gap: Migrant HIV Summit will take place 2 – 3 November 2022 in Brussels, Belgium.

Mi-Health Europe’s vision is a European region in which all migrants are able to realise a healthy and safe life. We believe that by elevating and resourcing the expertise and experience of frontline advocates, migrants and those with intersectional identities, we can collaborate to achieve innovative, data-driven solutions to migrant health inequalities; share resources, best practice and knowledge across the region; and influence national and regional policy so that it is more responsive to the healthcare needs of migrants living with and at risk for HIV.

Migrants living in the EU/EEA face specific vulnerabilities to HIV and must navigate unique legal, social, cultural, linguistic and economic barriers to access prevention and care services. The rise of anti-migrant movements across the region has also ushered in a new wave of punitive policies, limited support for migrants in vulnerable situations, and xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic and racist vitriol. Furthermore, the fallout from COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine continues to compound these healthcare disparities, systems inadequacies and social and economic inequalities impacting Black and ethnic minorities.

Though limited, the available data illustrates these deprivations.

  • Despite accounting for only 12% of the EU population, migrants represented 44% of new HIV diagnoses in 2019(1)
  • 35% of migrants acquire HIV after arriving in Europe(2)
  • 20 EU/EEA countries report major gaps in HIV prevention services for undocumented migrants(3)

Africa Advocacy Foundation and its Mi-Health Europe programme, representing our partner organisations in 10 high prevalence European countries, are organising the Mind the Gap summit to explore a more comprehensive approach to addressing the health needs of migrants across the EU.

We are inviting a range of stakeholders including partners from our Parceria Mi-Health HIV, migrant-led organisations, academic researchers, policymakers and commissioners under the theme of “Mind the Gap.” Together, we will address:

  • key challenges and gaps in the HIV cascade of care, including lived experiences from the frontline
  • data and research gaps in HIV, including launching a petition for better data for migrants
  • prevention, testing and treatment guidelines for migrants, including access to innovative biomedical interventions such as PrEP and U=U
  • advocating for a broader approach to inclusion and health equity regardless of ethnicity or origin
  • practical ways of addressing the immediate HIV-related needs of migrants from conflict areas, such as Ukraine and the Sahel region

Structure

  • Day 1 will focus on community stakeholders presenting experiences from the frontline and brainstorming on key messaging and discussion points for Day 2
  • Day 2 will feature a roundtable discussion with policymakers and key institutions on actionable recommendations and steps to influence HIV and healthcare policies and practices with the goal of advancing the migrant health agenda across Europe.

Watch this space for additional information on the summit. For any questions or to get involved, contact Denis Onyango, Programmes Director, at denis@africadvocacy.org.

(1) https://www.aidsmap.com/news/aug-2021/over-third-hiv-cases-among-migrants-europe-were-acquired-after-migration

(2) https://www.aidsmap.com/news/aug-2021/over-third-hiv-cases-among-migrants-europe-were-acquired-after-migration

(3) European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. HIV and migrants. Monitoring implementation of the Dublin Declaration on Partnership to Fight HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia: 2017 progress report Stockholm: ECDC; 2017.

“Monkeypox is not a gay disease!”

By: Lissilanne Silva (@lissilanne)

Oscar Bolaños Melian has been volunteering for the past 3 years at Noaks Ark Mosaik, one of the Mi-Health HIV Partnership partner organisations in Sweden, where he migrated to nearly 5 years ago. Oscar is part of the Partnership Steering Committee, an HIV advocate and an art lover. He has also candidly shared with us his life experiences, including the discrimination that sadly he continues to face as a gay man.

Oscar, 56 years old, was born in Spain in the small Grand Canary Island. He remembers a happy childhood — full of energy and a huge love for dance that later was part of artistic life as a drag queen. He also remembers the key events that marked his life to this day and the lessons he learned from them.

From a very young age, learning languages played a big role in his life as he describes that speaking different languages “gives him freedom”, a freedom that he felt was threatened when he contracted HIV nearly 20 years ago. For him, this was a life changing moment that dictated the steps he would take moving forward. It led to him raising awareness about the virus, especially within the gay community, and its relationship with drugs.

Though Oscar is open about his status today, he recalls a period where he had to hide his status due to the homophobia he would face in previous workplaces. Recently, with the outbreak of monkeypox, Oscar saw himself and his community, once again, being associated and discriminated against in relation to a virus.

“Monkeypox is not a gay disease!”, says Oscar after having contracted it and endured discriminatory remarks that the virus is now carrying. To him, a different sexual orientation is not the reason to get a disease or virus and campaigning to zero stigma can save us all from the nightmare people suffered, rooted in a deep lasting stigma that remains to this date with the outbreak of HIV/AIDS back in the 80s. These medical conditions spread together within a social context of fear, shame and prejudice.

Figure 2: Oscar with his late dog, Bruno

Oscar shared that the use of drugs and engaging in unprotected sex with multiple partners is part of the reality of some young men in his hometown that are sadly unaware of the possible risks of such a lifestyle. Hence, for him, raising awareness and providing access to information about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections is fundamental if we want to eradicate the epidemic by 2030.

Specialists confirm that giving access to relevant and key foundational information about sexual health, reduces the risks of infection. It also reduces stigma, a factor that not only prevents those that that are HIV positive from being open about their status, but also to prevents them from seeking support and remaining on effective treatment after the positive diagnosis. There have been transformational changes in HIV treatment and prevention since the 80s and it should no longer be a death sentence.

Oscar, a travel, and language lover (he currently speaks 6 main languages!), shares that despite obstacles that he might be facing, he remains a man full of dreams with a desire to move forward. Going back to his home island in Grand Canary and settling there with a gastronomy and arts business is part of his forward vision. In the meantime, he´s happy with his advocacy work and his married life to (partner name), a painter and an art lover just like him. 

The Mi-Health Europe team would like to thank Oscar for his candor and willingness to share his experiences. Watch this space for updates on our Mi-Health HIV Partnership. Would your organization be interested in partnering with us? We would love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out at mihealth@africadvocacy.org.

Mi-Health Europe on Partnering only for the good!

By: Lissilanne Silva (@lissilanne)

What do you think when you hear of the word “partnering”? Perhaps, you might think of it in a business setting or something more personal, more intimate such as getting into a relationship, but what about the partnering for good?

Every year, close to 2 million individuals cross into Europe, all seeking better life conditions ranging from political to socio-economic, wellbeing to health. For these people, access to (better) health can become quite challenging when the receiving country does not provide the best policies or environment for them. This is the reason why the collaborations between non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private sector funds and civil society are crucial to sooth some of the stress that migrant communities face in these precarious situations. This is also why we keep pushing for better health policies for all. And this is why we at Mi-Health Europe created the Mi-Health HIV Partnership.

Under the leadership of Africa Advocacy Foundation, we were awarded funding from Gilead’s Zeroing In- Ending the HIV Epidemic grant, as our primary work and program entails ending the HIV epidemic in vulnerable migrant communities across Europe:

  • We are developing culturally appropriate HIV educational materials;
  • We are conducting innovative HIV testing initiatives to address the gaps in the HIV cascade of care for vulnerable migrants;
  • We are creating opportunities to share best practice and expertise among the frontline organizations in our partnership.

Although we at Mi-Health Europe are the lead organization, this program requires collaborative implementation, pushing, therefore, towards partnerships for good. Our implementing partners for Zeroing In are spread across Europe. We´re all together 10 migrant-led organizations that mutually agreed for the first time ever to work in a partnership to advance HIV knowledge, testing and treatment and to address other obstacles to healthcare access that disproportionately impact migrant communities in Europe.

Zeroing In was established by Gilead to empower communities highly affected by HIV and COVID-19 on their current and future wellness and health activities. It is also quite unique as it encapsulates innovative approaches using digital health innovations as well as continuous and close contact with the communities most impacted by HIV. The main areas of this program are Comprehensive HIV Innovation Programs, Digital Health Innovations and – where our Mi-Health HIV Partnership sits – Community Outreach and Education.

For us, the organizations helping to implement our Mi-Health HIV Partnership are the backbone for this challenging but doable mission of ending the HIV epidemic amongst migrant communities in Europe. Improving migrant health is only possible if forces are joined for more partnerships with similar goals. We formed this partnership because we realized that individually, each of our organizations can only achieve so much, but together we can advance community-driven solutions to address the worsening precarity of migrants across the region and to improve migrant health outcomes. We are looking forward to continuing to advance our partnerships for good as we grow

So, this is a bit of the latest on our partnership for good and we are very happy to be doing this work with Plateforme Prevention SIDA (Belgium), AIDS Solidarity Movement (Cyprus), Association PASTT (France), Afrikaherz (Germany), Open Paths Athens (Greece), Associazione LHIVE (Italy), Stichting AFAA Netherlands (Netherlands), Noaks Ark Mosaik (Sweden) & FPCCSIDA (Portugal).

Watch this space for updates on our work and Partnership. In the meantime, what for the good have you done lately? Would your organization be interested in partnering with us? We would love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out at mihealth@africadvocacy.org or anne@africadvovacy.org.

More on Gilead’s Zeroing In: Ending the HIV Epidemic grant program, please check aqui..

Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved