His visit has highlighted a number of important issues for the HIV response in Ukraine and resulted in a number of significant steps forward.
Dr. Kazatchkine met with Mykola Azarov, the Prime Minister of Ukraine, and they had a discussion which he described as “frank and productive”. Dr. Kazatchkine called on the Ukrainian authorities to increase government funding of HIV programmes, expand opioid substitution therapy, and ensure HIV prevention takes place in prisons. He also acknowledged the success of substitution therapy in Ukraine, calling it the leader in this area in Eastern Europe.
The Prime Minister has now expressed his personal commitment to scaling-up substitution therapy for people who inject drugs, and confirmed an ambitious new target to enrol 20,000 patients. This commitment to scaling-up should mean a 100% increase in patients over 2012-13. The Prime Minister has now assigned the Minister of Health to take control over increasing the number of patients.
Dr. Kazatchkine has also been key to the Cabinet of Ministers’ approval of a draft law exempting Global Fund support from tax, which will have a significant impact on funding over the next few years.
During the visit Dr. Kazatchkine saw the work of a number of projects supported by Alliance-Ukraine, including a substitution therapy site, the prevention work done by the organisations ‘Eney’ and ‘Vertical’ and the Convictus community centre. During the meeting with civil society activists Dr. Kazatchkine appreciated cooperation of civil society organizations with Ukrainian state institutions to prevent epidemics in the country and the impact achieved.
Dr. Kazatchkine acknowledged the work done by Alliance Ukraine, stating that: “The Global Fund partnership with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine greatly contributed to paving the way for a breakthrough in the control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Eastern Europe region. The number of new HIV infections among injecting drug users in Ukraine has stabilized and HIV prevalence among them has been reduced. Harm reduction programs among most-at-risk populations were key in achieving this progress. And while much remains to be done, best practices of prevention programs among most vulnerable populations in Ukraine have become best practices where are shared globally”.
The visit was widely reported by international media outlets including New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, the Ukrainian government official web-site and local media, such as ICTV and others.
We hope that the outcomes of this trip will make a significant impact HIV prevention and on the lives of the 350,000 people estimated to be living with HIV in Ukraine.