17 August 2015 – The first consignment of vital antiretroviral medications for adults and children living with HIV in conflict-affected zones in eastern Ukraine arrived by air in Ukraine today. Further consignments will follow shortly.
This is the first shipment of life-saving ARV medications to arrive following the recent signing of a $3.7 million agreement between Unicef and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the emergency provision of HIV supplies for adults and children living in non-government-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine.
The agreement enables the continuation of ARV treatment for one year - for more than 8,000 adults and children living with HIV and of HIV testing for over 31,000 pregnant women and their children.
Unicef’s close cooperation the Medicines Patent Pool, the All Ukrainian Network of People living with HIV and selected ARV drugs manufacturers has also resulted in major costs savings and acceleration of procurement.
Unicef has warned that the health of thousands of children and adults in the conflict-affected zones of Donetsk and Luhansk will be at risk if their daily dose of ARV are interrupted.
When treatment is stopped, even temporarily, an HIV-positive person will be at higher risk of developing drug resistance, may progress to AIDS or die. If a pregnant HIV-positive mother’s treatment ceases, her own health may suffer and her baby may be more susceptible to infection.
“Disrupting the secure and safe delivery of supplies and medicines to conflict-affected zones can be a death sentence to people living with HIV,” said Craig McClure, Unicef Chief of HIV/AIDS. “The health and survival of vulnerable children, women and men should be held above geopolitical disputes.”
“Through committed partnership, we are focused on the vulnerable communities who need the supply of critical medicines to continue. This is absolutely essential to the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV in eastern Ukraine,” said Maria Kirova, the Global Fund Department Head for Eastern Europe.
The southeastern regions of Ukraine, including Donetsk and Luhansk, have the highest prevalence of HIV in the country at 644 cases per 100,000 people.
The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has further threatened the health of HIV-positive children and adults.
Nearly 14,000 adults and children living with HIV are residing in areas that are not under government control, 8,000 of whom are at risk of having their treatment interrupted.
The treatment of people living with HIV in other parts of the country will be safeguarded by the regular grant from the Global Fund and additional funding from Ukraine’s state budget. Unicef will purchase the needed medications and test kits and will support their distribution.
“Unicef is leaving no stone unturned to avoid the disruption by directly delivering essential supplies and services to children and families in both government- and non-government-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, Unicef Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of the Independent States. “We are working with our partners from the government, UN and civil society to provide much-needed assistance to children and adults living with HIV.”
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