MSF successfully hands over HIV/AIDS project in Transnistria

Amsterdam/Chisinau - On Feb 24, the international medical and humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) called on both the Moldovan and Transnistrian authorities, as well as the international donor community, to pay more attention to the health needs of the population of Transnistria. MSF asserts that the policies of excluding Transnistria from humanitarian assistance have only succeeded in increasing disease and unnecessary suffering. The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Transnistria, which is four times that of Moldova, is attributed to the fact that the region was excluded for many years from the international assistance to treat and fight the disease. MSF's programme was set up two years ago to urgently address the needs of the HIV positive population. As the problem is particularly acute in the prison system, MSF prolonged its services to prisons for a few months of this year. While MSF will monitor and assist for its remaining two months in the region, MSF strongly encourages the Transnistrian Health and Justice Ministries to cooperate in maintaining and extending HIV/AIDS services in the prison system. In addition to establishing a sustainable HIV/AIDS treatment programme, MSF also had the aim of demonstrating to other actors that it was possible to work in the unrecognized republic. While there has been progress over the last two years in the field of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) much remains to be done in this field as well as in other areas of healthcare. "The Transnistrian authorities need to do a lot more to make it possible for humanitarian assistance to reach its population," said Mark Walsh, MSF Head of Mission. "Complicated and time consuming customs procedures, as well as layers of unnecessary bureaucratic red tape, act as a disincentive to organizations that genuinely wish to assist their people. In the area of HIV/AIDS the near absence of prevention and harm-reduction activities serves only as a catalyst for increasing the spread of the disease." Moldova on the other hand, which is annually the recipient of tens of millions of dollars of humanitarian assistance, shares only a small percentage of this with the Transnistrian population and all too often this comes with strings attached. Over the last two years MSF has witnessed a persistent unwillingness to separate humanitarian from political goals. Intergovernmental organizations as well as individual international donors must no longer allow medical/humanitarian needs to be sacrificed for political objectives. "Increasingly there is talk of extending projects and funding being made available," said Walsh. "However, we are witnessing very little action on the ground. For instance, there is an international 'Donors group on Transnistria' that meets bi-monthly in Chisinau but, to be honest, very little is donated. From a pubic health point of view ignoring the health needs will lead to greater prevalence of infectious diseases and increased hardship for both the Moldovan and Transnistrian population." MSF now appeals to all actors, both local and international, to address the humanitarian and medical needs of this isolated population in an ongoing structural way irrespective of political agendas and objectives.