Ukraine: on the frontline of the fight against HIV
On the frontline of the fight against HIV: Ukraine’s resilience and WHO’s support
In Ukraine, the Ministry of Health reported 9769 new cases of HIV infection from January to October 2023, with 2738 people diagnosed with AIDS and 1198 dying from AIDS. The registered number of people living with HIV in Ukraine is currently 158 803.
Despite challenges posed by the Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukraine has made significant strides in expanding access to prevention, testing and treatment. WHO in Ukraine has played a crucial role in providing guidance to national and subnational health authorities, co-convening a technical working group under the national Health Cluster of Ukraine, and ensuring the continuity of essential HIV services.
World AIDS Day reflected the enduring global impact of HIV, a virus that has claimed 40.4 million lives to date and remains a pressing public health concern worldwide. Presently, 39 million people are living with HIV globally. The WHO European Region reported 110 486 HIV diagnoses in 2022, showing a year-on-year increase in 37 out of 49 countries.
Addressing the HIV burden in Ukraine
Under the leadership of the Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, nongovernmental organizations have supported the Ukrainian national HIV programme in ensuring people, including those who are internally displaced, are receiving essential HIV services.
WHO, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have together ensured the continued availability of antiretroviral drugs for both HIV infection and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
According to Public Health Center data, as of 1 November 2023 there were 121 820 people receiving antiretroviral therapy in Ukraine. Over 12 350 people were receiving PrEP for HIV in the first 9 months of 2023 under the national HIV programme.
Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine, emphasized, “We at WHO in Ukraine echo this year’s message of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS): ‘Let Communities Lead’. We commend and are humbled by the heroism Ukrainian health-care workers and partners demonstrate every day, especially near the frontline, to keep the HIV programme standing and their communities healthy.”
He added, “The work of reducing the burden of HIV in Ukraine is by no means done. Addressing stigma and discrimination in the health sector, ensuring sustainable health financing, and building a resilient health workforce are critical in our collective efforts to end HIV in Ukraine. WHO reiterates its commitment to universal health coverage and to ensuring those who need health-care services have access to quality care.”
Integrating HIV services into primary health care
WHO’s latest data reveal that only 72% of people living with HIV are aware of their status, and more than half of HIV diagnoses in the European Region are made too late. To address this and increase the level of HIV testing at the primary health-care level, WHO in Ukraine actively supports the integration of HIV services into primary care.
Seminars conducted in 8 regions of Ukraine, reaching 327 health-care professionals, have promoted early detection through increased HIV testing in primary care. Scaling up HIV testing in primary care, initiated by health-care professionals, plays a crucial role in early detection and prompt antiretroviral therapy. Early identification and treatment not only reduce the number of late-stage cases, but also significantly contribute to curbing the spread of HIV and saving lives.