Mayors of Four Albanian Cities Join Paris Declaration on HIV

Four Albanian cities — Kolonja, Durrës, Pogradec, and Shkodra—have signed the Paris Declaration on AIDS, committing to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. By signing the declaration, the mayors have committed to achieving the 95-95-95 targets by 2025 and have called on other municipalities in Albania, including the capital, Tirana, to join this effort.

Dr. José M. Zuniga, President of the International Association of AIDS Care Providers (IAPAC) and the Fast-Track Cities Institute (FTCI), welcomed the Albanian cities. “A critical mass of Fast-Track Cities in Albania has the potential to significantly impact the country’s HIV epidemic by creating an enabling environment to improve HIV treatment outcomes within a society that respects the human rights of all people living with and affected by HIV.”

Inspired by the success of more than 550 major cities around the world, Albanian cities are ready for decisive action. By signing the declaration, the mayors have committed to achieving the 95-95-95 targets by 2025.

To fulfill their commitments, the cities have developed various action plans based on their local circumstances. For instance, the Municipality of Durrës plans to increase investments in methadone maintenance therapy, aiming to expand the number of people benefiting from such services by 10% each year.
The Municipalities of Pogradec and Kolonja are focused on raising awareness among migrant populations to increase HIV testing rates in these regions. As border cities with a significant male population migrating for work, ensuring these communities are well-informed and have access to necessary health services is crucial.
Finally, the Municipality of Shkodra aims to foster a partnership with Podgorica in Montenegro to exchange experiences and best practices in developing the “Healthy Houses” model, which has been successful in the neighboring country. The “Healthy Houses” initiative is a free social service providing psychosocial support to citizens. It focuses on improving the quality of life, reducing risks, and offering support to socially vulnerable groups. The service addresses a range of issues, including HIV, domestic violence, addiction, and services for LGBTQ+ people and others.

Albania has a low HIV prevalence rate but faces an increasing number of reported new HIV cases. The total number of cases diagnosed from 1993 to 2023 is 1,716, with 113 new cases diagnosed in 2023 alone. The available data are based on HIV testing, while only a small proportion of the population is being tested for HIV, especially among key populations. Additionally, most HIV testing is carried out in the late stages of infection (about 60% of the new reported cases), hence the official figures reported do not represent the actual infection rate.

The Minister of Health and Social Protection of Albania, Ogerta Manastirliu, stated that rapid diagnosis and treatment are key. “The whole fight in this aspect is timely diagnosis so that treatment can start as soon as possible and the infection is under control.”

Olimbi Hoxhaj, Executive Director of the Albanian Association of People Living with HIV, hopes that signing the Declaration and subsequent actions will not only stop HIV but also significantly reduce AIDS-related mortality.

Since 2019, 21 municipalities from Southeastern Europe have joined the Fast-Track Cities movement. “While the European region faces political, economic, and healthcare challenges due to the war in Ukraine, migration, and other complexities, it is important to secure commitment from municipalities to advance towards the crucial HIV targets,” said Eamonn Murphy, Director of UNAIDS Regional Support Teams for Asia-Pacific and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“As part of a Global Fund-funded regional project, we will continue to provide technical assistance to partners and four municipalities to make real progress towards achieving 95-95-95 in 2024—the year of the 10th anniversary of the Paris Declaration—and sustain it beyond,” said Tetiana Deshko, Director of the International Programs Department at the Alliance for Public Health, which provides support to municipalities within the framework of the regional #SoS 2.0 programmes.

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