Due to inadequate state funding, Ukrainians living with HIV are more likely to die from AIDS than Africans living with HIV who live in countries with the highest HIV burden.
According to the UNAIDS report on the Global AIDS Epidemic published last week, AIDS-related deaths fell by more than 25% between 2005 and 2011 globally. In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV has the strongest grip, the decrease was as much as 31%.However, during the same period, the number of AIDS-related deaths in Ukraine grew by a massive 70%.
There are three reasons why Ukrainians are more at risk:
1.Lack of state funding to tackle the full scale of the HIV epidemic and provide the necessary prevention, treatment and care programs. Every year the state budget only covers 50% of the National HIV/AIDS Response Program. And yet, every day in Ukraine 57 people are newly diagnosed with HIV and 11 people die due to AIDS-related causes.
2013 will be the final year of the five year National HIV/AIDS Response Program. If we are to stand any chance of tackling AIDS and reducing HIV infections, the Ukrainian government must fully fund this Program.
2.Inadequate HIV testing and limited access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) increases AIDS mortality and accelerates the spread of HIV. Only 22% of those who need treatment actually receive it. People who use drugs are six times less likely to obtain treatment compared to an adult who does not use drugs. Considering the fact that the HIV epidemic in Ukraine has historically been driven by injecting drug use, their poor access to treatment threatens the possibility of any further reduction of the HIV epidemic in Ukraine.
In order to increase access to ART for those in urgent need, the artificial barriers should be removed for HIV infection and tuberculosis treatment, as well as substitution maintenance therapy for people who use drugs. According to the National Program, 20,000 people who use drugs must receive the substitution maintenance therapy till the end of 2013 at the state budget expense. In its turn Alliance Ukraine, through cooperation with NGOs, plans to increase to ART treatment access for vulnerable groups to ART by 2.5 times.
3.Neglecting best practices in HIV prevention programs in Ukraine and the creation of barriers that impede implementation are hampering the response. Ukrainian HIV prevention programs implemented by non-governmental organizations in cooperation with healthcare services are recognized as among the best in the world. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, one of the world’s biggest donors when it comes to HIV, recently highlighted the work of Alliance Ukraine to demonstrate the efficiency of prevention programs among drug users, one of the most vulnerable groups at risk of the epidemic.
However, Alliance Ukraine is currently because the state is creating artificial barriers which are impeding efficient prevention. Instead of prosecuting drug traffickers for example, the state authorities are filling prisons with young drug users who should have been sent instead to treatment programs. In 2012 is having a serious impact on the successful operation of substitution maintenance therapy programs, one of the most efficient HIV prevention activities.
Additionally, if the homophobic draft law No. 8711 is adopted by the Verkhovna Rada, this may lead to a complete inability to implement prevention programs for men who have sex with men, another at risk group.
Ahead of World AIDS Day on 1 December we call on the President of Ukraine, the Government of Ukraine and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to take immediate action to ensure a full scale national response to the HIV epidemic in Ukraine by:
- removing barriers for the implementation of the prevention and treatment programs for vulnerable groups including people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men and sex workers
- allocating in full the funds planned for implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Response Program in 2013.
International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine
Contact person for mass media:
Senior Communications Manager
phone: 050 2150503; 0444905486, ext. 205