Ukraine is home to the largest and most rapidly growing HIV epidemic in Europe. According to Ministry of Health September 2011 statistics, 197,083 Ukrainians are infected with the virus, which equates to 0.9 percent of the population. This number accounts for those individuals who are registered as HIV positive, but the actual percentage is set at approximately 1.3 percent of Ukraine’s population.
According to Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Ukraine is “the only region of the world where the AIDS epidemic is still growing”.
So what is being done to curb the rate of HIV transmission? The Global Fund is allocating $86 million to Ukraine in 2012-2013 to aid the HIV prevention and treatment efforts. Since condoms are considered “a simple, low-cost prevention method that works” the AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) is distributing one million free condoms around the world on International Condom Day, February 13th. The AHF will also conduct up to 10,000 HIV tests. Seven thousand condoms will be distributed in Odessa and Kiev as part of the initiative.
On December 1, 2011, The Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation in collaboration with Ukraine Google affiliate launched an interactive map and news service which will provide easy access to locations of the nearest HIV testing sites and condom vending machines.
The United States Congress has cut the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR) by 2 percent, and has mandated that none of the funds be spent on needle exchange programs, which will undoubtedly prove inefficient in places like Ukraine, where intravenous drug use accounts for a majority of HIV infections.
Related to the discussion on HIV/AIDS, here is a link to And the Band Played On, a wonderful film that documents the discovery of the HIV virus, the important research that was conducted in the 80’s which led to the discovery, and the inaction of the US government in the crucial early years of the disease’s spread. The film emphasizes the government’s views of HIV/AIDS as a “gay” disease. It seems that linking AIDS to homosexuality, promiscuity, and drug use offered (and offers) justification for limited access to ARV’s and other drugs or programs which should be readily attainable by HIV positive populations as well as those at risk.