AHF began working with Demetra in 2009. Demetra is an HIV/AIDS support organization based in the capital city of Vilnius. Together, AHF and Demetra provide mobile HIV testing for hard-to-reach populations, free condoms, and access to healthcare and psychosocial support for those who test positive. In addition to the mobile clinic, AHF and Demetra facilitate rapid testing in 13 cities at 20 fixed locations throughout the country.
While only 0.1 percent of Lithuanians are living with HIV, the percentage of people who have been tested is also low. Fewer than 1 in 5 Lithuanians are aware of their HIV status. Between 1988 and 2016, 2,703 people were diagnosed with HIV. The main transmission mode is via injecting drug use.
Free testing is limited to most-at-risk populations (MARPs), such as injecting drug users (IDUs), and is provided only through the rapid testing program of AHF and Demetra. Further, the government’s conservative attitude makes the availability of affordable condoms a challenge.
The national guidelines on treatment initiation in Lithuania still recommend start of HIV treatment at 200 CD4cells/M₃. Changing these guidelines is a key priority for AHF and Demetra. The public awareness and political interest in HIV is very low in Lithuania, as the epidemic is concentrated among people who use drugs. Data collection at national level is insufficient, which makes monitoring the epidemic very challenging.
In recent years, an increase in new infections among MSM is seen. AHF and Demetra opened the Vilnius Checkpoint clinic in 2016 to address this.
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