On 5 March, 2014 Checkpoint – first free counseling and HIV testing room in Latvia started its operations by setting its main target group – man having sexual relationship with other man which are exposed to the risk of HIV infection.
The State has so far paid attention mostly to the drug users which in the late 90’s and early 00’s created a huge spread of HIV infection in Latvia, ranking our country in the second place in the European Union. But few years later the situation rapidly began to change – HIV cases gained in sexual contacts rose increasingly. In the international online research, carried out in 2010, between homosexual and bisexual men (EMIS) there was a conclusion that also in Latvia these two groups of men are at high risk group with the HIV prevalence – 7.8%.
Understanding the high potential of the risk, Baltic HIV Association with the help of EEA financial mechanism programme “NGO Fund” on March 5th opened the first Checkpoint for men having sexual relationship with men, consulting, examining and sending further to visit doctors those visitors whose express-test turned out to be positive or there were other objective risks of being infected. During the year Checkpoint has become mobile, following its target audience in the clubs, coordinating this activity in advance with the club managers. Therefore, from all 183 Checkpoint clients, 43% has got consultations in the Checkpoint premises (Stabu street), but 57% – during the Checkpoint mobile activities in clubs (XXL – 56%, GOLDEN – 49%). 39% of all clients made their HIV test for the first time in their lives. Among clients 12% were women – both partners of bisexual men and women who visited Checkpoint to get quality advice as they had been at risk to get infected. This highlights the need to expand the target groups of Checkpoint during the year.
The association plans to continue collaboration with 18 physicians – trained and involved in the Network of Supportive Doctors, as well as with many volunteers who enthusiastically participated in the Checkpoint activities.
Later this month it is planned to sign the collaboration agreement with the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDPC) of Latvia, which will allow the association to use the state purchased express-tests and other necessary medical supplies.
However, work of non-governmental organizations is not appreciated. Although, at national level Latvia has declared the need to involve society in the fight with HIV, there is still disorder in support system of NGOs and lack of ability of several ministries to create a funding mechanism that could support the work of NGOs and help to continue its efforts without interruption.
Inga Upmace, MD
Chairman of the Board
The Checkpoint is opened within the project “Promoting social inclusion of men who have sex with men (MSM) by improving access and quality of health care services”.
The project is being implemented within the framework of the EEA Financial Mechanism for 2009 – 2014 Grants programmes “NGO Fund” sub-programme “NGO Project Measure”. The Project is supervised by the Social Integration Fund and it is co-financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.