The Ombudsperson Institution of the Republic of Kosovo, pursuant to his constitutional and legal mandate, has submitted to responsible authorities and has published the Ex. Office Report with Recommendations No. 698/2020 regarding access to health care services for persons affected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Tuberculosis (TB), during the COVID-19 pandemic period in Kosovo.
This Report was initiated ex-officio by the Ombudsperson, with support of the Community Development Fund (CDF), given the role of Ombudsperson Institution in overseeing fulfillment of state’s obligations with regard to the observance of guaranteed rights, in particular in the circumstances created as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a focus on the most vulnerable individuals or groups. Investigations conducted related to this Report have also taken into account discussions made at the meeting of the HIV Prevention Program Advocacy Group, counseling meetings with organizations working in the field of the rights of persons living with HIV and TB in Kosovo and the necessity of their access to health services even in times of pandemic, Ombudsperson’s Report as per treatment of persons with HIV and AIDS in Kosovo, as well as the findings from ex-officio investigations conducted related to this Report.
The main purpose of this Report was to assess the provision of health care services, with a human rights-based and non-discriminatory approach, for persons with HIV / AIDS and TB in Kosovo during the COVID-19 pandemic period, in relation to universal health coverage, as an objective of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as to draw authorities’ attention to the importance of adequate treatment of persons with HIV / AIDS and TB, given the detrimental consequences that their ongoing failure to get treatment might cause.
The Report finds violations regarding fulfillment of constitutional and legal obligations towards persons infected with HIV and TB. Regarding HIV-infected persons, the Report raises concerns about the cease to function of the Center for Voluntary Counseling and Testing within Infectious Diseases Clinic as of March 2020, the failure to perform tests and disclosing outcomes of the tests only in writing for CD4 and viral load tests, as well as regarding the failure to maintain contacts of Infectious Diseases Clinic with HIV and AIDS patients during the pandemic. As for issues related to people affected by tuberculosis, the Report notes the lack of special sanitary facilities in pulmonology clinics / hospitals, lack of sufficient pulmonologists in the Pulmonology Clinic and some general hospitals, lack of case tracking in the field as well as the lack of the use of digital health technologies to support treatment of patients, in line with WHO recommendations.
Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms is essential and very important for an effective response in the prevention and treatment of HIV and tuberculosis in Kosovo. Despite the fact that Kosovo has made a lot of progress in responding to them, there are still aspects that require attention of the responsible authorities, regarding the rights of persons affected by HIV and TB, therefore the Ombudsperson, based on the analysis and case investigation, has addressed the Report with relevant recommendations to responsible authorities, which aims to impact on the improvement of the situation regarding this issue
This report is now available in English as well, and can be found here.
Source: Ombudsperson Institution, Kosovo