GENEVA, May 6 (IPS) – The writer is UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director and head of UNAIDS’ humanitarian response. disruption of access to health services for people who would not survive if health care was cut off.
Health service delivery has been severely impacted, and the supply lines essential to drug delivery have been severely disrupted. The World Health Organization (WHO) has verified 186 attacks on healthcare facilities since the start of the war.
The WHO survey found that of Ukrainian households with someone with a chronic illness, one-third do not currently have the medicines and care they need.
People with HIV depend on daily medication to keep them healthy and alive. More than 40 health facilities providing pre-war HIV treatment, prevention and care services have closed or been destroyed.
Many Ukrainians affected by the conflict are unable to access the remaining medical facilities. About 260,000 Ukrainians are living with HIV. UNAIDS is working with partners to ensure continuity of HIV services. Disruptions to treatment services put their lives in jeopardy and put the country’s HIV epidemic at risk.
In a huge achievement, the drug was successfully introduced into Ukraine, thanks to PEPFAR (US President’s Emergency Relief Plan), which pledged US$13 million to purchase 51 million urgent HIV doses. enough to sustain Ukrainians living with HIV are provided with life-saving treatment for a year.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is also rapidly moving US$15 million into an emergency fund for Ukraine and several neighboring countries to continue providing life-saving care.
Now that HIV drugs have reached Ukraine, attention is focused on getting them into the hands of everyone who needs them. Before the war, Ukraine’s AIDS response had built an exemplary model of community-led services in partnership with government. It is the resilience of the decades-old network of community-led services that has kept the AIDS response going.
The Center for Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and civil society organizations such as 100% Life, the country’s largest network of people living with HIV, are working together to maintain services.
Supplying drugs in this war presents a major security and logistical challenge. Several 100% Life volunteer drivers have died trying to deliver much-needed HIV drugs to frontline areas.
Despite the enormous difficulties involved, grassroots organizations are a lifeline for many people to travel to safer places at home or abroad, providing them with humanitarian aid and HIV drugs — even in remote areas. areas of intense conflict. Their brave work is to save many lives, but the needs and challenges are great and growing, while the resources are not enough. “The situation of people living with HIV in Ukraine is desperate. We are trying to provide medicine, food and other emergency assistance to those in need, but the work is dangerous and the volunteer drivers are putting their lives at risk. If we don’t get more help, I’m not sure how much longer we can continue, especially reaching those on the front lines,” said Dmytro Sherembey, Head of the 100% LIFE Coordination Council. shall. That is why UNAIDS has made an urgent appeal to the international community for even greater support to help these everyday heroes save lives. The challenge of reaching people in need has been greatly exacerbated by people’s displacement. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are currently 7.7 million internally displaced people in Ukraine.
The war has also forced millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes and seek asylum in neighboring countries, including Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. It is estimated that up to 30,000 Ukrainian refugees may now need HIV medication as the supplies they carry dwindle. WHO helped broker an agreement with pharmaceutical company ViiV Healthcare to supply HIV drugs to Czechia, Poland and the European Union countries that host large numbers of Ukrainian refugees.
Ensuring medicines reach the people who need them requires engagement with PLHIV communities and key population networks in host countries to ensure appropriate access and trust building. These community-led organizations also require upgraded international support. It is clear from listening to those who receive and provide medical services on the basis that what Ukraine needs most is peace. That is why the Secretary-General of the United Nations has called for a complete cessation of hostilities and the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
However, the damage of this terrible war means that even if there is peace, great and lasting needs for international assistance will remain. Support is especially needed for community-led organizations, whose partnerships with the public health system are key to ensuring health for all.
Meanwhile, as the effects of the war become more severe, the world must increase its support for Ukrainian civil society organizations to maintain the medical supply. This is important to prevent a resurgence of the HIV epidemic in Ukraine. And for Ukrainians living with HIV, it is literally a matter of life and death. Civil society networks, based on whose creativity and courage? HIV services depend on who, is managing to get HIV drugs that save lives. They do it persistently, supported only by human determination and love.
Many of those involved are people living with HIV themselves – they understand the seriousness of what is at stake if they are unable to continue their work. The help they provide to save their own lives risks. They do not seek international admiration, but they need increasingly international help. And they need it now.
IPS UN Office
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