Rights of Stigmatized Groups

IV. Rights of HIV-positive Individuals

The prevalence of HIV infection in Lithuania is now approaching 0.01% of the population,[1] with the exception of two groups at risk where HIV prevalence has well exceeded the epidemic threshold of 5%[2] – people using injecting drugs and people in prison.[3] HIV prevalence among injecting drug users in Vilnius stands at 9.7%.[4] Since 2012, each year sees more and more new cases of HIV infection crop up in Lithuania.

The main tool for monitoring and assessing the epidemiological status of HIV is HIV testing, which should be easily accessible (in primary health care institutions), free (compensated by the state) and anonymous.

Nowadays state-funded HIV tests are only available for detained or convicted individuals, blood donors and pregnant women. However, these social groups – with the exception of detained or convicted individuals – do not bear the highest risk of HIV infection.[5]

Users of injecting drugs and people in prison bear the greatest of risk of HIV infection. The fact that there are no easily accessible state-funded HIV tests available to these risk groups potentially violates the right to access health care, which is guaranteed by the Law on the Rights of Patients and Compensation of the Damage to Their Health.

The prevalence of HIV infection in Lithuania is now approaching 0.01% of the population, with the exception of two groups at risk where HIV prevalence has well exceeded the epidemic threshold of 5% – people using injecting drugs and people in prison. HIV prevalence among injecting drug users in Vilnius stands at 9.7%.

Lithuania is now the only country in the EU that does not offer state-funded and conveniently accessible tests to individuals belonging to groups with a high risk of HIV infection.[6] UN and EU institutions have on many occasions expressed concern over the fragmented nature of efforts to prevent HIV among injecting drug users, the low scope of HIV testing and poor selection of risk groups, as well as the waste of public funds on inefficient measures; these institutions have also submitted specific recommendations for tackling the situation.[7] The World Health Organization has repeatedly stressed that ensuring that people are able to find out their HIV status should be the very first strategic direction taken by the health care sector.[8]

Findings and Recommendations 

  • All persons, especially persons most at risk of HIV infection, should be allowed to access state-funded (free) HIV tests at places that are convenient and easily accessible to them.

[1] Centre for Communicable Diseases and AIDS, Overview of the Prevalence of Communicable Diseases in Lithuania 2013, published in 2014, p. 17, http://www.ulac.lt/uploads/downloads/leidiniai/sergamumas_2013.pdf

[2] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Evaluation of the Access to HIV/AIDS Treatment and Care in Lithuania, April 2010, p. 9, http://www.unodc.org/documents/balticstates/Library/Other/Report_ART_Lithuania_EN.pdf

[3] Centre for Communicable Diseases and AIDS, Overview of the epidemiological situation of the prevalence of STDs and HIV in Lithuania, 2013, http://www.ulac.lt/uploads/downloads/LPI%20situacijos%20analize%202014%2008%2025%20finall%20%282%29.pdf

[4] Drug, Tobacco and Alcohol Control Department, Annual Report 2014, published in 2014, p. 70, http://www.ntakd.lt/files/informacine_medzega/0-NTAKD_medziaga/1-MP/2014_LT.pdf

[5] European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, “ECDC Guidance: HIV testing: increasing uptake and effectiveness in the European Union", 2010 m, http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/101129_GUI_HIV_testing.pdf; European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, "Guidelines for testing HIV, viral hepatitis and other infections in injecting drug users", 2010, http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/attachements.cfm/att_118462_EN_TD3009243ENC_web.pdf

[6] Coalition "I Can Live", Eurasian Harm Reduction Network, "Alternative Report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights", March 2014, http://galiugyventi.lt/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Alternative-report_Lithuania_2014.pdf

[7] European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, "Meeting report: Detecting and responding to outbreaks of HIV among people who inject drugs: best practices in HIV prevention and control", 29-30 March 2012, http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/publications/mer-idu-outbreaks.pdf; European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, "Meeting report: Reitox Academy for Baltic Countries: Monitoring trends in and responses to drug-related infectious diseases among people who inject drugs", 21-22 November 2013, http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/21728/3/Report_Reitox_Academy_Tallinn_21-22_November_2013_final.pdf; World Health Organization, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, "Evaluation of the access to HIV/AIDS treatment and care in Lithuania", 2010, http://www.unodc.org/balticstates/lt/news/2010/IIq/ARV_Evaluation_LT.html

[8] World Health Organization, "HIV/AIDS Programme: Highlights 2008-2009", 2010, p. 5, http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2010/9789241599450_eng.pdf