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Cablegate: Estonia: Red Light On Hiv Prevention In

VZCZCXRO0310
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTL #0310/01 2550641
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 110641Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0796
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TALLINN 000310

COPENHAGEN FOR ESTH OFFICE

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID KHIV TBIO EN
SUBJECT: Estonia: Red light on HIV prevention in
schools

REF: A)07 TALLINN 729
B)08 TALLINN 10

1. Summary: Estonia's Ministry of Education has
resisted pressure to continue funding HIV education
courses previously implemented under Estonia's Global
Fund program. As a result, few schools have provided
any HIV-related courses in 2008. Slowing economic
growth and a tight budget could result in a decrease
in GOE spending on HIV programs in 2009. Post is
actively engaged with policy makers, members of
parliament and the NGO sector to keep HIV on the GOE
agenda. End Summary.

2. (SBU) In September 2007 Estonia graduated from the
UN Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS Tuberculosis and
Malaria (GF) program (REF A). The GF had spent $10
million over four years on HIV programs in Estonia.
One of the six key objectives under Global Fund was
HIV prevention work with Estonian youth. Over the
course of the program, more than 88,000 students
attended special HIV prevention course in schools,
27,000 youth participated in peer-to-peer HIV courses
and GF trainers distributed more than 200,000 condoms
and 100,000 information booklets.

3. (SBU) When the GF program ended in September 2007,
the Government of Estonia (GOE) committed to continue
funding all GF activities. Under Estonian law, the
Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) was given
responsibility for overall coordination of HIV-related
activities. All other ministries involved in the
fight with HIV/AIDS - including the Ministry of
Defense (MOD) the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the
Ministry of Education and Research (MOER) - were
tasked with securing adequate resources to continue
funding HIV programs. All ministries met this
obligation in 2008 except the MOER, which did not
obtain funds for HIV-specific school programs and
discontinued cooperation with the NGOs that had
provided training in schools under the GF program. As
a result, very few schools have provided any HIV
prevention courses for their students in 2008.

4. (SBU) In December 2007, the Embassy hosted a
briefing for members of the diplomatic community on
the status of Estonia's HIV/AIDS epidemic and GOE
prevention/treatment programs. (REF B) At the
briefing, the MOER outlined the Ministry's ongoing
efforts to develop a new comprehensive curriculum for
Estonian schools that would include HIV specific
health education. In May, MOER's Deputy
Undersecretary told us the ministry hoped to launch
the new curriculum in 2010. However, MOER has been
working on developing this new curriculum since 2000
(when the HIV epidemic started in Estonia.) In our
estimate, it is unlikely MOER will be ready to launch
the new curriculum before the end of 2010 - leaving at
least a three year gap in which Estonian school
children do not receive vital information on HIV/AIDS.
MOER also has not been able to respond to questions
regarding when and how teachers will be trained in the
new materials. This means implementation of the
curriculum will likely take even longer.

5. (SBU) Over the course of the last 10 months, in
addition to meetings at MOER, Pol/Econ Chief and ESTH
Specialist have met with representatives of MOSA, the
Parliament's Social Affairs Committee, the World
Health Organization (WHO), diplomats from other
Embassies and the NGO Community to discuss our
concerns regarding HIV education in Estonia. At all of
the meetings, except with MOER, our interlocutors
echoed concerns regarding the gap in HIV prevention
education programs. The GOE's own HIV coordinating
committee has discussed the issue and urged the MOER
to address it on several occasions. (Note: The
committee includes representatives from the GOE, NGOs,
WHO and the parliament and reports directly to the
cabinet on a biannual basis. End Note.) On July 29
the Minister of Education and Research finally
allocated $140,000 for peer-to-peer programs in the
schools. MOER will use the NGOs that worked
previously with the GF Program to implement these
courses. While this is certainly a positive step, it
will only affect a fraction of Estonia's school
children.

7. (SBU) Comment: During the Global Fund Program,

TALLINN 00000310 002 OF 002


Estonia regularly received praise for its
implementation efforts and the high level of
engagement of the third sector (NGOs) in implementing
HIV programs. However, we are concerned now that the
GOE is having trouble fulfilling the commitments it
took when the GF ended its program in Estonia.
Estonian economic growth has slowed significantly this
year and ministries will face significant budget cuts
this fall. We believe MOER's lack of follow-through
on funding HIV programs is already setting a bad
precedent. Other ministries including the MOJ (which
provides HIV courses in prisons) and the MOD (HIV
courses for recruits) are also considering some
reduction in the size of their HIV programs.

8. (SBU) Comment cont. Estonia has the highest HIV
growth rate in Europe and health issues are a key
component of our Mission Strategic Plan goal of
promoting economic growth and development in Estonia.
Post will continue its efforts to engage policy-
makers at all levels on the importance of funding HIV
programs. In September, Pol/Econ Chief will publish
an OpEd in Estonia's widest circulation Estonian- and
Russian-language newspapers highlighting the
importance of education programs in HIV prevention.
In October, six Estonian HIV experts will participate
in Voluntary Visitor program (VolVis) focused on HIV
case management. Post has also received approval for
one of the key officials involved in drafting
Estonia's new school curriculum to participate in an
FY09 International Visitor Leadership Program focused
on HIV education.

Phillips

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