The 3rd Meeting of AIDS and Hepatitis was completed on Saturday 19th of September, which had been organized by the Laboratory of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics of University of Athens, in collaboration with a number of medical institutions, partner companies and organizations; the Association of Patients Liver , Prometheus and Praksis are three of the main partner-organizations that assisted towards the completion of the aforementioned project.
During the opening speeches of the conference, the President of Praksis, Mr. Tzanetos Antipas outlined the main direction of the intervention as well as the specific contribution of PRAKSIS on the conference’s working groups. He underlined stressed inter alia that “ the biggest challenge for the structures of PRAKSIS is to meet the needs of the most vulnerable groups as far as HIV and hepatitis are concerned, as we have to take care specifically of those most directly affected by the inherent weaknesses of a system that crashes and needs to be constantly rebooted”. The entire speech can be found HERE IN GREEK.
At the NGOs round table discussion, specific topics on which Civil Society Organizations have been invited to work have been recorded. This discussion managed to highlight the multiple problems associated with the access to health services as well as with the constraints that HIV and Hepatitis vulnerable groups constantly face. PRAKSIS focused specifically on the Injecting Drug Users (IDUs). This group presents co-infection, thing that prevents them to have access not only to new treatments but also to the old ones. Due to the fact that the access related to insurance and medication factors is extremely expensive, it is not provided to individuals that desperately need such treatments. As in the case of HIV, which had been presented by Doctors Without Borders, there is an urgent need for a transparent negotiation process regarding the price of the drugs, in order for the latter to be drastically reduced. In addition to that, a very interesting intervention by the Healed Association of OKANA took place: drug users as well as their associations do not have access to resources that would facilitate their substantial involvement in the programs designed for them, whilst drug use is a discussion topic that involves only a theoretical approach around infections.
During the satellite symposium Hepaction, PRAKSIS shared with the audience and the rest of the participants, apart from the already mentioned access barriers, some specific concerns that have been summarized as such:
- The essential alignment of medical criteria along with the social and economic ones, regarding the selection and prioritization processes of the new treatments’ provision for patients with coinfection regardless of insurance coverage (although it has been mandated to be covered, hospital budgets have not been increased, thus administration offices prioritize based on scientific and compensation criteria).
- Active search that would facilitate the fast interconnection of stage F3 and F4 IDUs, in order to receive the proper treatment (creation of IDUs total care services-one stop shops).
- One stop shops: the user needs, the provision of medical services and the interconnection with the insurance system have to be solved all together. Also there is a great need for a combination of medical and social services as well as for an effective cooperation among users in substitution programs and/or former users.
- Despite the fact that some of the new treatments have already been priced, the new political leadership should go directly to the creation of a commission that has to be negotiation commission between the State and the pharmaceutical industry (both the civil society and the patient-associations have to participate to this commission in order for a greater transparency to be ensured).
PRAKSIS intervention ended with a suggestion for the next round- table discussion : Our organization would be interested in the final conclusions as far as the way Greece has so far handled the cases of innovation in the pharmaceuticals sector. Both the Sovaldi case and the ability to cure the virus of Hepatitis C could be the incentives for the organization of a meeting that would advance further discussions around the positive and negative consequences of the current adopted policy and come up with suggestions on what could be our national strategy for innovative medicines