Press statement

UNAIDS urges Ukrainian Government to ensure continuity of HIV services and commends endorsement of new law promoting a human rights-based approach to AIDS

GENEVA, 31 January 2011—The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is concerned about reported government-led investigations of programmes run by the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV and other non-governmental organizations working in the field of AIDS across Ukraine. 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 All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV and other community and non-governmental organizations play a key role in Ukraine’s response to the HIV epidemic. 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.

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 endorsement of the provision of harm reduction services for people who inject drugs—an evidence-informed measure that has proven effective in many countries, including Ukraine, and endorsed by UNAIDS, WHO and UNODC—will strengthen existing programmes run jointly by the government and non-governmental organizations.

“This law represents a major turning point for the AIDS response in Eastern Europe,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “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.

The new law represents an important commitment by Ukraine to the country’s HIV epidemic, which remains the most severe in all of Europe. HIV prevalence in Ukraine is estimated at 1.3% and annual HIV diagnoses in the country have more than doubled since 2001. Between 39% and 50% of the estimated 375 000 people who inject drugs in Ukraine are living with HIV.

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