Head: Ms C. Botsi MD, MSc
Greece joined the ESTHER alliance in September 2006 through an agreement signed by the then Minister of Health, Mr. D. Avramopoulos. So that Greece could participate in the ESTHER programme, the HCDCP set up a bureau which was linked to the HIV & STDs Office. An assignment of jobs led to its secession from the HIV & STDs Office and its accession at the Meditteranean and Black Sea Cooperation Office & ESTHER.
The European Alliance ESTHER
The European alliance ESTHER (Ensemble pour une Solidarité Thérapeutique Hospitalière En Réseau) http://www.esther.eu/ is an association of Governments which focuses on networking health professionals and organizations]in Europe with the aim of joining forces to deal with HIV/AIDS and its consequences in developing countries via a high level therapeutic approach. The ultimate aim is to realize the goals set for the new millennium and achieve access to prevention and treatment worldwide.
In 2002 the French government took an initiative to promote the ESTHER network in order to facilitate access to the treatment and monitoring of HIV positive patients in developing countries.
The programme supports partnerships that create hospital care environments and relevant social networks that will enhance the long-term ability of developing countries to treat HIV infection.
This action is based on four key action areas, namely:
- Improvement of the conditions of healthcare through technological assistance and the provision of medical equipment. This includes educational programmes for medical and paramedical staff.
- Support for national strategies for HIV infected patients by strengthening solidarity and also by networking those trained in the care of HIV patients.
- Support for the implementation of continuous care strategies. This means creating links between hospitals and families through health systems and networks that facilitate decentralization and those dealing with the psychosocial aspects of treatment.
- Participation in the activities of international and European organizations in order to facilitate long-term access to treatment and care.
The European countries involved are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain. The network is also joined by the Nordic countries and Switzerland. Currently the ESTHER alliance is running healthcare programmes in about 40 developing countries.
The Alliance signed a memorandum of cooperation with the International Fund for the treatment of AIDS/HIV in order to confront HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and with the World Health Organization (October 2004), after that body had become involved with those diseases in addition to HIV, as well as with child health and maternal mortality.
The ESTHER initiative recently interfaced with the EU’s EDCTP (European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership), thereby paving the way for the implementation of clinical trials in its areas of action.
The office’s professional actions
- The Greek branch of ESTHER participated in the Alliance’s annual meetings (Athens 2007, Dakar 2008, Lisbon 2008, Berlin 2009, Oslo 2011, Paris 2012). Greece’s initiatives in regard to the goals set by the Alliance were quoted, as was our opinion on what the priorities should be regarding HIV infection and co-infection.
- Regarding the objectives of the Greek section of ESTHER, a workshop for hospital administrators was organized, with the intervention of the Department of International Relations of the Ministry of Health. The aim was to motivate them to participate in the programme (2008).
- In 2009, a memorandum of understanding was drawn up by the Greek branch of ESTHER and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ office YDAS (Agency for International Development and Cooperation). A funding proposal was submitted for a twinning programme linking structures and hospitals in Africa, Greek hospitals and NGOs. The proposal was drawn up in conjunction with the hospital AHEPA, the NGO Solidarity of the Church, the NGO Médecins du Monde, the Hellenic Medical Students’ International Committee (HelMSIC) and the Dioceses of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. This action was aimed at training health professionals in Greece as well as providing equipment for countries implementing the programme. It was placed under the auspices of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. However, because of the financial crisis, YDAS funding has stopped.
- In 2011 the Greek branch of ESTHER was represented at the UN General Assembly on HIV/AIDS by the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa.
In order for Greece to fulfill its obligations, given the financial difficulties and lack of money, the existing Greek actions in Africa looked for other fund-raising options.
The Patriarchate of Alexandria http://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/ is now, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (YDAS, Churches’ Department) and the HCDCP, the partner and operator of the Greek ESTHER initiative in Africa.
The Patriarchate has created and currently operates educational structures and health facilities (clinics, health centers, hostels for victims of trafficking).
Potential future development / expansion of activities, services and infrastructures falling under ESTHER’s jurisdiction
- Inclusion of the Patriarchate of Alexandria’s medical structures in the health network created by the ESTHER alliance.
- Networking of the Patriarchate’s structures with other available structures/organizations in each country as well as with Greek Special Infections Units, so that more appropriate management of patients with HIV, malaria and tuberculosis may be achieved.
- Creation of a data recording system in order to establish monitoring programmes in accordance with the ESTHER programme.
- Training of staff (medical and nursing/administrative) working within the Patriarchate’s medical structures, in order to offer HIV/AIDS patients better coordinated and more modern treatment.
- Compilation of a Census of the Patriarchate’s Structures, their patients and the diseases they encounter.
- Applying for resources in order to equip the structures.
- In view of the above, and in order to accelerate and facilitate the process, the Administration of the Ministry of Health’s HCDCP (Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) decided to:
- Record the needs and capabilities of the existing structures.
- Help improve the organization of structures and their harmonization, as far as possible, with ESTHER standards.
Furthermore, in order to deal with the victims of trafficking from Africa to Greece, the possibility of implementing prevention programmes will be explored along with the development of Hostels for housing victims until they can be repatriated. The cooperation of the IOM (International Organization for Migration) has been requested with regard to the latter.
To date, the Greek ESTHER initiative has recorded Greek structures in Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar, South Africa and Kenya. The ESTHER Department continues recording until completion.
|C. Botsi MD, MSc