Although Albania has a low prevalence of HIV/AIDS, cases of HIV/AIDS in Albania have risen over the years. Cases of HIV in Albania increased by more than 50% between 2008 and 2018. The most recent estimates note 1,400 HIV cases, equating to a prevalence lower than 0.05%. The highest prevalence of HIV is apparent among specific vulnerable populations: “people who inject drugs, sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men, ” The Global Fund reported. However, stigma and discrimination present barriers to testing and treatment. The Albanian organization Aksion Plus, a member of the IDPC (International Drug Policy Consortium) aims to reduce HIV/AIDs in Albania through education and awareness campaigns, with a special focus on the most vulnerable groups.
People Who Inject Drugs (PWID)
Data from a 2019 HIV Integrated Biological and Behavioural Study (IBBS) reported a low rate of HIV/AIDS among PWID at 1.4%. However, the study shows concerning rates of needle sharing among this group. At the time of the study, about 41% of PWID reported sharing needles with others in the last 30 days. The majority of these individuals shared needles with one person and 14% shared with up to three people. This means the PWID group is at high risk of contracting and spreading HIV/AIDS in Albania. There are also difficulties in reaching the PWID group as most of them inject drugs in isolated areas during hours when not many people are around.
Men Who Have Sex with Men
Men Who Have Sex With Men are also vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS. In 2019, Albania noted 93 new HIV cases, with men accounting for 66% of these cases. Sexual intercourse is the primary mode of transmission of HIV/AIDS in Albania among men who have sex with men. However, the number of HIV cases among this group is likely higher as stigma and discrimination deter individuals from revealing their sexual practices and prevent them from seeking out testing/treatment.
The 2019 IBBS study shows an HIV prevalence of 2.0% among this group. However, condom use is high. Comparing the 2011 and 2019 IBBS results, 74% of respondents in 2019 used condoms during their last sexual encounters compared to 14% in 2011.
Aksion Plus has engaged in HIV/AIDS work in Albania since 1992. The organization works to prevent the spread of HIV through advocacy and education campaigns. Aksion Plus also provides targeted support to those who inject drugs. The activities to reduce HIV among this group include needle exchanges, methadone therapy, “outreach in the drug scene” and counseling.
The organization runs a program, which began in 2014, to educate the younger generation about HIV/AIDS. In the program, a group of social workers gives HIV/AIDS information, life skills education and counseling to students in some of Albania’s secondary schools. Due to the success of the program, the Regional Directorate of Education is bringing similar initiatives to other high schools.
Through the work of Aksion Plus, efforts are in place to prevent, manage and control cases of HIV/AIDS in Albania. In this way, Aksion Plus contributes to the health and well-being of the country’s citizens.
– Olga Petrovska