Ukraine and the Effects of War on Fighting HIV

Ukraine and the Effects of War on Fighting HIV

On Monday January 26th, Michael Pizzi of Al Jazeera published an important story with regards to the conflict in the Ukraine. His article is entitledWar in Ukraine Threatens to Worsen HIV Crisis.” While much of the attention has been on the international relations between Ukraine and Russia, and the rebel forces in Eastern Ukraine (and of  course the importance of focusing on the effects on innocent civilians), Al Jazeera looked at another important yet often rarely reported factor related to the conflict: they discuss how the war has effected the fight against the spread of HIV in Ukraine.

According to the report, “Aid workers in Ukraine are warning that the central government’s decision to cut off humanitarian aid to the separatist-held east in November has resulted in urgent shortages of narcotics substitutes for drug addicts — a policy that could undo years of progress in curbing the country’s fast-growing AIDS epidemic.”

Pizzi quotes Pavlo Skala, who is the Associate Director of Alliance Ukraine, who said that ““Unfortunately this broken chain of supply is not a priority for the government of Ukraine because of the war…”. He was also quoted as saying that ““The irresponsibility of the government has made it almost impossible to provide these territories with narcotic drugs…” which could fight against diseases.

When one reflects upon war (and studies war in international relations), sometimes such stories are not the first to be examined. It is important to think about all of the consequences of war, from human rights, the horror of war crimes, as well as government inactions on social programs and aid (in this case for political purposes), and the effects that it can have on citizens in the country. It seems that this is a political decision, and one that is carried out by the state. Pizzi writes that Skala said “the shortages in eastern Ukraine are largely the fault of Kiev, which has failed to approve an emergency request for an exception to the blockade proposed by his and other aid groups, along with the Ministry of Health. Hundreds of patients signed an open letter to accompany the request, saying many would consider suicide rather than “returning to street drugs and a life of crime.”

The methadone and other OST supplies have already been paid for by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which distributed money to civil organizations like Alliance Ukraine. All Kiev needs to do is sign off on their delivery, but Skala feared that could take “weeks or months.”

Hopefully the government will provide the much needed aid and support to those with the HIV/AIDS infection in Eastern Ukraine, so that activists can continue their selfless work helping individuals in the country. 

I urge everyone to take the time to read Pizzi’s piece, as it does an excellent job discussing how individuals were reliant on the aid, and what has happened since the government has stopped delivering the supplies.

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