Rights Group Criticizes Ukraine for Failing to End Violence Against HIV/AIDS Victims
March 2, 2006
Police abuse and medical discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients and those at risk of infection are undermining Ukraine's efforts to control what has become the worst AIDS epidemic in Europe, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.
"The HIV/AIDS policies that Ukraine has put in place are generally good ones," said Rebecca Schleifer, an HRW HIV/AIDS program researcher. "But until the government addresses the chronic abuses of people at highest risk of HIV/AIDS, it will have little hope of stemming its HIV epidemic."
Though Ukraine's national AIDS law, which incorporates human rights protections for HIV/AIDS patients, serves as a regional model, HRW said such protections are rendered meaningless by abusive practices, difficult regulations, and an overall failure to implement the law fully.
HRW reported that HIV patients seeking treatment are often turned away by doctors. Many physicians do not want to train as HIV specialists, resulting in a shortage. Police often target people who use basic HIV-prevention services such as needle exchanges, which are government-supported, HRW said. Some HIV-positive prisoners are denied treatment.
The deep social stigma attached to the disease means that some patients are reluctant to disclose their status and thus avoid HIV/AIDS treatment centers for fear of discrimination.
Since its first case was reported in 1987, Ukraine has officially registered 76,875 HIV cases. However, some experts believe the accurate figure may be as high as 500,000, or about 1 percent of the country's total population. Unlike his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma, President Viktor Yushchenko speaks regularly about HIV/AIDS and has said that combating the disease will be a top focus of his administration this year. Yushchenko has warned that without concerted efforts, 10 percent of Ukraine's 47 million people could die of AIDS by 2010.
03.02.06; Natasha Lisova
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.