Speaking to Heads of State, NGOs and civil society during the round-table event, Andriy represented Ukraine; a country with one of the world’s fastest growing HIV epidemics.
According to estimates, by 2015 Ukraine will achieve all MDGs except for the MDG6 – to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Here’s what he had to say:
Why are forecasts so pessimistic regarding HIV and AIDS in Ukraine?
(Andriy) Because the rights to treatment of nearly half a million drug users in Ukraine are violated. The majority of HIV-positive people in Ukraine are injecting drug users, but they are seriously under-represented in regard to access to treatment: only about 7% of those receiving anti-retroviral treatment (ART) are drug users.
In Ukraine, injecting drug users are frequently living with HIV, TB, and hepatitis. In such a situation it appears tempting to neglect all these problems rather than to pay for antiretroviral therapy (ART), tuberculosis and drug treatment, and thousands of dollars to treat hepatitis. And this is what many governments intuitively do – ignore the problems of the most vulnerable.
Why is life saving antiretroviral treatment so poorly available to injecting drug users in Ukraine, people most in need of it?
Because drug treatment programs with methadone and buprenorphine are limited and cover only about 10% of the estimated country’s need. However we know that these programs are an essential and proven element in starting ART and supporting adherence to treatment.
This happens because Ukraine – like some post-communist countries – does
not yet fully accept substitution therapy, an evidence-based method for
treatment of drug dependence and HIV prevention. The police is having a
decisive voice on judging the treatment effectiveness, which has led to
a series of interference into the medical programs. 100 days ago a
substitution therapy doctor
Ilya Podolian was put in jail for prescribing methadone to his
patients under the national program.
Why is this happening in Ukraine?
Because the most vulnerable are still neglected in my country. This leads to the nation-wide HIV epidemic, leaking out to general population, impacting further development of the entire nation. Unless the epidemic is stopped, we may lose 2-4 years of life of Ukrainian men, 3-5 years of life of Ukrainian women, and 472 000 people of working age by 2014.
What needs to change immediately?
I’m calling on my President, Ukraine’s and other official delegations from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and other parts of the world to start doing things differently. As my colleague Ivan Shekker would have reminded me were he still alive: there is no need for any additional resolutions, decisions, or millennium goals, let’s just be honest in regard to the MDGs, constantly keeping an eye on the needs of the most vulnerable. And we will be rewarded … by millions of people who will stay alive.
More on Alliance Ukraine.
many governments ignore the problems of the most vulnerable