Ukraine: Pushing for generic drugs to treat AIDS

Under the accord, brand-name AIDS treatment, although less expensive than before, will continue to be six times more costly than generic medicines. MSF, together with an Ukrainian NGO, has called on the government to allow generic ARV drugs in the country, where an estimated 250,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS. MSF provides HIV/AIDS support for mothers and children in Odessa, Mikolayiv and Simferopol, where HIV incidence is the highest in the country. Preventing HIV transmission between mothers and children is a priority, and more than 300 mother-child pairs were involved in the program by July 2002. Transmission rates have dropped from 30% to 13% since the project's inception in November 2000. In April 2002, MSF started treating HIV-positive babies at high risk of developing full-blown AIDS with ARV therapy to help them fight the disease. MSF will widen ARV treatment if generic drugs are registered. Peer support is an important part of the MSF program. HIV-positive mothers, some with infected babies, provide counseling for women in the clinics before and after HIV testing. MSF also supports the AIDS hospital in Odessa by providing antibiotics and other medicines. For World AIDS Day 2001 (1 December), MSF held a photo exhibition in the capital Kiev in collaboration with the NGO "AIDS Foundation East-West." MSF has been in Ukraine since 1999. International staff: 4 National staff: 28