Real progress in overcoming the HIV/AIDS epidemic: Ukraine takes steps to stop the virus spread
On July 23-27, 2018 the International AIDS Conference – the largest conference on any global health issue in the world – brings together more than 15 000 scientists, activists, health providers, policy makers and global leaders. The Ukrainian delegation spoke about the national strategy and effective measures taken to stop the HIV/ AIDS epidemic in the country.
The number of officially registered HIV cases in Ukraine has reached 324 434 cases, including 106 642 AIDS cases. Our country is currently implementing modern approaches to the HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment aimed at ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic and has all chances to become a model in reducing the number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in the region.
Ukraine currently implements a number of important measures and programs to stop the HIV/AIDS spread:
- The largest HIV/AIDS prevention programs (for all vulnerable groups) in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
- The state-funded substitution therapy program. It is important to note that Ukraine has the unique experience – it is the only country in the region where the substitution therapy program is state-funded.
- The state has already procured the ART medicines for more than 140 000 HIV-positive patients.
- The test-and-treat approach to HIV/AIDS – the policy providing for an early treatment of newly diagnosed HIV-infected individuals.
- Steps in the HIV diagnostic testing algorithms – PHC physicians (family doctors and general practitioners) are encouraged to use rapid HIV tests for routine HIV testing of patients. Therefore, primary care providers will systematically approach patients with an offer of an HIV test when seeking healthcare, especially those who really need it.
While we have already achieved the positive dynamics in treatment of HIV-positive patients in most regions of Ukraine, we still have no data on the needs and health of patients staying in the occupied Crimea and temporarily uncontrolled territories. We have no access to information whether people living with HIV/AIDS receive vital treatment. Since 2015, many international organizations and funds have been helping us to provide ART to people living in the self-proclaimed republics in the east of Ukraine. The Global Fund finances a procurement program for HIV/AIDS patients, and provides live-saving medicines. UNICEF helps with medicine delivery to these areas.
“We have managed to provide treatment to people living in the territories controlled by Ukraine, while patients staying in the temporarily uncontrolled areas of Ukraine are in a very difficult situation. Due to military operations and hostilities, people in the occupied territories have been deprived of access to necessary medicine and timely treatment for a long time. There were cases of discontinuation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) with all the negative health impacts. At present, we have no reliable data on the number of patient deaths caused by this situation or on the current disease spread in the uncontrolled territories of Ukraine,” underlined Dr. Ulana Suprun, acting Minister of Health of Ukraine, at the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam, Netherlands.