Odessa municipality listens to people living with HIV

07 Feb 2014

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It is a well-known fact that effective HIV responses usually involve the strong engagement of regional and local organizations as they are close to the people who need these services and can understand their needs.

UNDP and the Odessa City Council have recently implemented a pilot project to strengthen HIV responses in Odessa with a strong focus on marginalized populations.

An important aspect of the project was to promote user-driven assessment of local HIV support services and work towards the fulfillment of patient rights. This led to the development of a user-friendly online feedback mechanism connecting the beneficiaries of HIV-related services and the providers of those services in Odessa.

The main partners of the initiative were the Odessa City Council, Department of Public Health, City Centre for Prevention and Control of AIDS and City Center of Social Services for Family, Children and Youth.

Preliminary meetings were held starting in October 2012  involving HIV service providers and key population representatives. The purpose was  to agree on the methodology and criteria of the HIV service-provider assessment and how to create the online monitoring system.

The final meeting in September 2013 presented a version of the online monitoring system that incorporated user feedback. This event was held at the Odessa City Council and was attended by city council members, healthcare professionals, key population representatives, social workers, NGOs dealing with HIV and media representatives.

At the meeting, it was stressed that the website will provide information about access to support for people living with HIV as well as the availability of free HIV prevention, treatment and care services in Odessa.

These services are provided by NGOs including Together for Life, For a future without AIDSFaith, Hope, LoveThe Way Home, Partner, Rainbow, Bavarian House OdessaCaritas Odessa (in Ukrainian), Era of Mercy, Sun Circle, Life +, Youth Development Center and others.

In November 2013, the Odessa City AIDS Centre, Odessa City Center for Social Services and the organization The Way Home signed a memorandum on the governance of the newly created web-resource, clearly outlining responsibilities for website administration, analysis of the incoming information and the use of any resulting reports.

Two sets of computer equipment were transferred to the City AIDS Centre and the City Health Statistics Bureau by UNDP to ensure smooth operation of the system, efficient data analysis and ongoing sustainability.

According to Natalya Kitsenko, Deputy Director of the CSO Way to Home, “The monitoring system will greatly influence the quality of HIV services provided in the city of Odessa by making the needs of patients and clients visible to the service providers.”

Igor Shpak, the  Head of the Health Department of the Odessa City Council also believes “Data generated by the system will be crucial for planning future actions of the city relating to HIV response and accommodating the needs of key populations.”

A campaign to spread the word and popularize the newly created website was launched with the use of printed materials (posters, leaflets, pocket-size calendars), promotional videos (in Russian) and  information posted on the websites of other relevant organizations.

The online monitoring tool (in Russian) is now fully functional and people can provide feedback on the quality of HIV-related services they have received.

The feedback will help ensure that healthcare and social services are in line with international standards and improve the transparency and accountability of local healthcare and social institutions.

The ultimate goal is to further build confidence in local authorities and improve their partnerships with community-based organizations.

The Odessa City Council website has more information (in Russian) on this initiative.