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    Humanitarian Catastrophe Awaits Ukraine’s People Living With HIV, Says UNAIDS

    HealthHumanitarian Catastrophe Awaits Ukraine’s People Living With HIV, Says...
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    Humanitarian Catastrophe Awaits Ukraine’s People Living With HIV, Says UNAIDS

    NGOs have been working to provide emergency support during the conflict, using minibuses to meet pressing humanitarian needs, including evacuating vulnerable populations and delivering food and medicines, especially to vulnerable groups, like people living with HIV.

    Over a quarter of a million Ukrainians are living with HIV. 152,000 people have been on daily medication for HIV.

    In the middle of the ongoing war and displacement, there is growing concern about these people living with HIV/AIDS. One of the immediate concerns is about their need for accessing antiretroviral therapy and prevention services.

    The lack of access to therapy and prevention services would mean a wave of deaths and risks a resurgence of Ukraine’s AIDS pandemic, UNAIDS says.

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    The war in Ukraine has resulted in the destruction and disruption of health services and logistical supply chains that hundreds of thousands of people living with and affected by HIV depend on for survival.

    “The community-led networks which are vital to maintaining life-saving services need an urgent upscaling of international support,” as statement released by UNAIDS says.

    More than 40 health facilities that offered HIV treatment, prevention and care services before the war are now closed and there are various levels of service disruption at other sites. By 11 April, the World Health Organization (WHO) had verified more than 100 attacks on health facilities in Ukraine, while supply routes within the country have been thrown into disarray.

    Besides, thousands of Ukrainians living with HIV who fled the country are in need of support in host countries.

    Therapy aid will last year

    An initial delivery of more than 18 million doses of life-saving antiretroviral medicine procured by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that arrived in Lviv last week is now being distributed in partnership with the Ukraine’s public health centre and a network of people living with HIV/AIDS, 100% Life. But, these medicines are just sufficient to cover a six-month supply for all people living with HIV on first-line treatment.

    A second tranche is expected for another six months.

    Simultaneously, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) is also providing emergency funding to ensure the continuity of life-saving HIV and tuberculosis services.

    Attention is now on ensuring that the life-saving HIV medicines reach all people in need in time. Civil society organizations working with people living with HIV are, however, challenged, as they need further support to continue their work.

    “The situation for people living with HIV in Ukraine is desperate. We are trying to deliver medicines, food and other emergency assistance to people in need, but the work is dangerous and volunteers are putting their lives at risk,” said Dmytro Sherembey, Head of the 100% Life Coordination Council.

    “If we don’t get more help, I am not sure how much longer we can continue, especially reaching people in the front-line zones.”

    NGOs at the frontlines

    UNAIDS has released an initial US$ 200,000 in emergency funds to address urgent humanitarian demands. It has also issued an urgent call for an additional US$ 2.42 million for civil society organizations providing HIV services in Ukraine and for those receiving refugees affected by HIV in other countries, as part of the wider upscaling needed.

    NGOs have been working to provide emergency support during the conflict, using minibuses to meet pressing humanitarian needs, including evacuating vulnerable populations and delivering food and medicines, especially to vulnerable groups, like people living with HIV.

    For example, mobile clinics have been deployed to take opioid substitution therapy to people who use drugs in areas where facilities have been forced to close. There is a need for additional supplies of opioid substitution therapy.

    “Civil society organizations and communities of people living with and affected by HIV are the bedrock of the HIV response in Ukraine,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS.

    “They urgently require additional financial and logistical support to ensure the continuity of HIV treatment, care and prevention programmes. We urge all donors to be part of enabling this vital service to save lives and prevent a resurgence of the AIDS pandemic in Ukraine.”

     

    Image: Courtesy of 100% LIFE, Ukraine

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