It has been proven that if provided with access to antiretroviral therapy (ART), people with HIV can have long and quality lives, and if they use preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP or HIV prevention pills taken before sex), chances of transmitting the virus are equal to zero, same as with pregnant women with HIV who take ART. It has been proven that if governments allocate sufficient funds to prevention and treatment, as well as to non-discriminating laws and practices, HIV can become fully controlled and ultimately eradicated.

In spite of all these fact, HIV-related myths are thriving in North Macedonia, young people have no place to be informed, sustainability of HIV services is unsecure, and discrimination and stigma faced by people living with HIV are prevailing and key barriers to enjoying the health rights and social rights.

This makes it clear why HIV is today our strategic orientation, as it has been for two decades now. In addition to direct provision of HIV services through HERA’s “I Want To Know” Youth Centres in Skopje and the two mobile outpatient clinics for HIV testing across the country, sustainability of HIV prevention and protection programmes is in the spotlight of our advocacy work. This is exactly why in 2014 we initiated the founding of the HIV Platform for ensuring the sustainability of HIV services to key populations, thanks to which we managed to ensure full national funding for HIV services offered by civil society organisations starting from 2018.

HERA is the host of the  Secretariat of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and a Member of the European Parliamentary Forum for Population and Development. We are also hosting the National Coordinating Mechanism for HIV and the Regional Coordinating Mechanism for HIV and Tuberculosis of South-Eastern Europe, and we are also members of the National HIV and AIDS Commission and the European HIV Legal Forum.

Many challenges lie ahead of us, so we are not changing our course until HIV status is no longer perceived as a health status that should deprive the people of their sexual rights.

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