Two recent action appeals launched by 'What’s Preventing Prevention?' have helped ensure the continuation of substitution maintenance therapy in Ukraine in face of a government crackdown.
Harm reduction work has had a clear impact in Ukraine. Following its adoption at a national scale it has contributed to a fall in HIV incidence from 18% in 2006 to 6% in 2009.
The Alliance was alarmed at reports coming from NGOs and methadone clinic staff suggesting a government crackdown on drug substitution therapy across Ukraine. Doctors were being intimidated into providing confidential information on patients to prosecutors and the police. People who use drugs were made to disclose their HIV status in order to access the therapy. In response, the Alliance lobbied both within Ukraine and at EU and international levels and also called for individuals to write letters to the Ukrainian authorities. As a result, the Prime Minister of Ukraine issued an order to support the expansion of drug substitution therapy. The Ministry of Health also highlighted the benefits of substitution therapy and recognised its success in preventing HIV transmission.
Last year, 'What’s Preventing Prevention?' called for letters to be sent to the Ukrainian authorities urging the release of Dr Ilya Podolyan. Dr Podolyan, a physician working on drug substitution therapy, was arrested on 28 May 2010 on charges of drug trafficking. Following the campaign, Dr Podolyan was released while he awaited trial and returned to his work at a clinic in Odessa supported by Alliance Ukraine.
Upholding the rights of people who use drugs is essential to prevent the spread of HIV. By violating their right to privacy, people who use drugs in Ukraine were less likely to access HIV services. Continued harassment of doctors could also make them reluctant to be involved in substitution therapy programmes.
The new Community Action for Harm Reduction (CAHR) programme aims to protect and promote the rights people who use drugs. Networks of people who use drugs and other programme partners will advocate for change in India, Kenya, China, Indonesia and Malaysia to protect against harassment and abuse and to promote policies that support HIV prevention, treatment and care. What’s Preventing Prevention? will also continue to advance the rights of people receiving substitution maintenance therapy at the global level.