17 April 2008. Kyiv, Ukraine. Ukraine has the most severe HIV epidemic in Europe, with an estimated adult prevalence of 1.63%. As of the end of 2007, over 122,000 cases of HIV-infection were officially reported since the beginning of the epidemic in 1987, including over 22,000 cases of AIDS, and 12,490 people who died of AIDS. These figures represent only a portion of those currently living with HIV and AIDS in Ukraine. Based on the current national estimates, 440,000 people are estimated to be currently living with HIV in Ukraine.

Currently the HIV epidemic in Ukraine is concentrated among most at risk populations, including injecting drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men. However, the most recent data suggest that in at least three oblasts (Kyiv, Odessa and Mykolaev oblasts), HIV prevalence among pregnant women exceeds 1%, which indicates the epidemic is spreading into the general population.

According to Francis M. O’Donnell, UN Resident Coordinator in Ukraine, “Although the response to the AIDS epidemic has significantly improved in the recent years, current efforts by central and local governmental authorities, civil society and the donor community are still not having an impact on the epidemic.”

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The recent External Evaluation of the National AIDS Response highlighted a series of serious shortcomings in Ukraine’s National AIDS Programme, especially in the area of prevention. The preliminary results of the evaluation stress the importance the new All-State Targeted Programme on HIV/AIDS for 2009-2013 as Ukraine’s vital opportunity to respond effectively to the epidemic.

Francis O’Donnell has expressed serious concern that “The processes stipulated by Ukraine’s legislation for the development of state targeted programmes and their budgets appear not to have been followed, leading to serious confusion about new Programme on HIV/AIDS.” These problems need to be addressed in preparation for the High Level Meeting on AIDS at the United Nations Headquarters in New York (June 10-11, 2008). At this meeting of UN member states, Ukraine must report on progress in implementation of the UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and other commitments to scale up towards Universal Access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Francis O’Donnell stated that “The Ministry of Health of Ukraine has submitted the Concept of the Programme to the Ministry of Finance for its endorsement. The UN System in Ukraine is concerned that the total budget requirement for the Programme may be reduced from 6.5 billion UAH to 2.2 billion UAH. The UN strongly recommends maintaining the minimal total Programme funding of 6.5 billion UAH, including the 5.7 billion UAH from the state budget.”

In order to develop a more effective national AIDS programme, the UN System in Ukraine strongly recommends extending its deadline beyond April 15, 2008 and revising the processes for its development so that the Programme can serve as a guide for the efforts of all state- and non-state partners.

“The UN System is confident that better preparation will yield a better programme,” said Kori Udovicki, UN Assistant Secretary General and United Nations Development Programme Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Europe and CIS. “Getting an AIDS programme right can help avoid hundred of thousands of new infections and tens of thousands of deaths, so we urge the Government to commit sufficient funding and devote more care and attention to the drafting of the national AIDS programme."

The UN System in Ukraine reaffirms its commitment to provide technical support and expertise to help all sectors in development and implementation of an effective All-National Programme to respond to the HIV epidemic in Ukraine.

For media contacts:

Anna Aseeva, UNAIDS Communications and Information Officer.

Tel.: 8 044 499 11 72, 8 050 351 68 97

*The United Nations Country Team in Ukraine consists of 13 resident agencies, organisations and associated institutions including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as the World Bank (WB), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The United Nations office in Ukraine was opened in 1992.