Officials in Ukraine Taking Steps to Increase HIV/AIDS Awareness as Disease Spreads to General Population, New York Times Reports
The New York Times today examines the spread of HIV/AIDS in Ukraine, the first European country with an HIV adult infection rate above 1%. Only 187 AIDS cases were reported through 1994, but the proliferation of intravenous drug use and prostitution that accompanied the fall of the Soviet Union has helped the virus to spread rapidly. Today, Ukraine, with an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 HIV/AIDS cases, is the worst affected nation in Eastern Europe. Although Ukraine is "generally considered among the most advanced nations in the region on AIDS issues" -- President Leonid Kuchma declared 2002 the "official year of fighting AIDS" -- stigma surrounding the disease remains strong with many HIV-positive people afraid to disclose their status. Now, as the epidemic begins to shift away from drug users toward the general population -- an estimated 60% of new infections are due to sexual contact -- officials are taking steps to raise awareness. "We are sort of in a beginning stage of people understanding that it is a threat for everyone. But it is only a beginning," AIDS activist Sergey Fedorov said. The United Nations is trying to raise $30 million to $50 million for a "broad" three-year HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention initiative among young people in Ukraine. "I think we will be able to make the epidemic stall in the next five years. Of course, we will not be able to stop it. But we can stop it from growing," Alla Shcherbinskaya, director of the new national Center for AIDS Prevention, said. The full article is available online (Fisher, New York Times, 1/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.