MSF hands over Ukraine HIV/Aids programme

Kiev - After a presence of six years in the Ukraine, the international medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is now handing over its HIV/Aids programme to the Ukraine Ministry of Health and national NGOs as LifePlus, Alternativa, UNITAS and Time to Live.

Since 1999 MSF has set up a model for HIV/Aids patients that focused on offering ongoing care from the moment of the pre-HIV test counselling all the way to providing daily lifelong medication to the patients. With special attention to the medical care and the psycho-social support for patients.

This 'continuum of care' model has been developed and implemented with the Ministry of Health and the NGO partners. With increased international financial commitment to HIV/Aids and training of the staff of the Ministry of Health the ongoing care for these patients is now ensured.

"One of the remaining challenges is to combat the stigma and the discrimination that still surround the HIV/Aids patients in Ukraine, only then the HIV/Aids programme can be really successful. With strong leadership and further investment the model we have set up can be extended across the country," says Zahedul Islam, the departing MSF head of mission in Ukraine.

"Ukraine has one of the highest rates of HIV/Aids in Europe and only a small amount of people is aware of their status. To break through the stigmas that still surround the disease is the only way to offer the patients good treatment and a dignified way of living."

MSF's programmes were running in Odessa, Mikolaev and Simferopol and concentrated on cutting the transmission of HIV/Aids from pregnant women to their babies; providing life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and establishing psychosocial programmes to help patients to adhere to their treatment.

In addition the organization trained up to 1,500 staff members of the Ministry of Health to ensure ongoing care. MSF participated in a national campaign to raise awareness about HIV/Aids and to reduce the stigma still surrounding the disease.