Natasha Ivanova hangs laundry in the apartment she shares with her mother in Odessa, Ukraine. Natasha, an HIV-positive intravenous drug user, recently lost her five-month-old baby girl to AIDS. "My mother is the only one who has not rejected me," she says.
To help stave off the spread of the epidemic, MSF's activities focus on care and support for people who have contracted the virus, as well as on HIV/AIDS prevention among the general population.
Care and support for AIDS patients
In the southern cities of Odessa, Mykolayiv, and Simferopol, MSF is using single doses of the antiretroviral drug nevirapine to reduce HIV transmission rates from pregnant mothers to babies by up to 50%. The organization also provides essential drugs to treat and prevent opportunistic infections and to ease suffering among HIV/AIDS patients, and will soon treat infants with antiretroviral therapy.
Besides medical care, MSF offers counseling and psychosocial support to patients, their partners, and their family members. In addition, it advocates for change nationwide so that people with HIV/AIDs can have access to medicines they need.
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Raising awareness and countering stigma
People living with HIV/AIDS in Ukraine are often fired from their jobs; obliged to leave their homes; and rejected by friends, family, and even medical workers who refuse to treat them. With the understanding that ignorance breeds fear and discrimination, MSF ran mass media campaigns (through TV and radio ads, leaflets, posters, the internet) to inform the general public about the facts of HIV/AIDS.
It also supported four regional information centers which raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among health care professionals, NGOs, high-risk groups, and the wider population. To specifically target injecting drug users, MSF provided support and training for Ukrainian NGOs carrying out needle-exchange and other "harm reduction" programs.
In the spring of 2001, the information programs described above were handed over to "AIDs Foundation East-West," a new public health NGO specialized in HIV/AIDS prevention.
MSF has been working in Ukraine since 1999.
International staff: 6
National staff: 26