Aid Group Urges Ukraine to Combat Discrimination Against HIV/AIDS Patients
October 31, 2005
On Thursday, Doctors Without Borders (DWB) urged Ukraine to combat the prejudice and discrimination HIV/AIDS patients face in the ex-Soviet republic, which has one of the highest infection rates in Eastern Europe. Official government figures show 76,875 HIV cases recorded since the country's first reported case in 1987, but some experts believe as many as 500,000 Ukrainians, 1 percent of the population, are infected.
According to DWB, doctors in Ukraine often turn HIV patients away when they seek treatment, and many doctors are hesitant to become HIV treatment specialists, leading to a scarcity of practitioners. Fearing alienation or losing their jobs, patients are reluctant to disclose their status and so avoid HIV/AIDS treatment centers. Experts add that societal pressures also contribute to the underreporting of infected patients.
"To break through the stigma that still surrounds the disease is the only way to offer the patients good treatment and a dignified way of living," said Zahedul Islam, DWB's local representative.
DWB has worked in Ukraine for six years and has claimed some success stories, including cutting mother-to-child HIV transmission from 30 percent in 1999 to 12 percent in 2005. The group plans to hand over its AIDS program to local authorities later this year.
Recently, President Viktor Yushchenko warned that 10 percent of Ukraine's 47-million population could become infected by 2010 if people's awareness remains so low and the disease rate remains so high.
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.