The United Nations today voiced concern at reported Ukrainian Government-led investigations of HIV/AIDS programmes run by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) while at the same time praising a new law promoting a human rights-based approach to the disease.
“UNAIDS calls on the Government of Ukraine to ensure the investigations do not lead to a disruption of HIV services provided by these organizations to thousands of people,” the Geneva-based Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said in a statement.
The All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV and other community groups and NGOs reportedly under investigation play a key role in Ukraine’s response to the HIV epidemic, it added.
Ukraine’s HIV epidemic is the most severe in all of Europe, with a prevalence estimated at 1.3 per cent, and annual diagnoses have more than doubled since 2001. Between 39 and 50 per cent of the estimated 375,000 people who inject drugs in Ukraine are living with HIV.
“Working together, the Ukrainian Government and civil society organizations have achieved considerable success in providing services for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support to populations at higher risk of HIV infection and people living with HIV,” the agency noted. “UNAIDS commends the Government of Ukraine on the recently endorsed State Law on AIDS that promotes a human rights-based AIDS response.”
The law guarantees harm reduction services, including needle exchange and substitution treatment for people who inject drugs; confidentiality of HIV status for people living with HIV; post-exposure prophylaxis for health care providers and victims of sexual violence; and independent access to HIV-related services for adolescents.
“This law represents a major turning point for the AIDS response in Eastern Europe,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said. “The new law must be fully implemented by all parts of the Government in letter and spirit.”
With this law, Ukraine also joins a growing list of countries that have lifted entry, stay and residence restrictions for non-nationals living with HIV, aligning the country’s HIV legislation with international public health, social and human rights protection standards.