3 March 2022 (Geneva, Switzerland) – IAS – the International AIDS Society – is deeply concerned about the impact of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine on all its people and, more specifically, on people living with and affected by HIV in the country.
With the recent escalation, the IAS is very concerned that thousands will have to fend without the required health services, dramatically worsening the state of the HIV epidemic in Ukraine.
The IAS also calls on health authorities in the countries receiving Ukrainian refugees to ensure un-bureaucratic access to medical care, including essential HIV prevention and treatment services.
The IAS joins others in condemning the violence against health facilities and workers, which constitutes war crimes under International Humanitarian Law.
Without peace and stability, meaningful health services and a continued evidence-based and human rights-driven HIV response become near impossible. Without the respect of the most basic tenets of the rules-based international order with the UN Charter at its centre, the IAS fears that the Ukrainian HIV response and its public health advances of recent times will be reversed and needless human suffering will ensue.
The disruption and discontinuation of harm reduction strategies in Crimea following Russian annexation in 2014 had extremely negative implications for those hardest hit by the HIV epidemic as well as for those exposed to the highest risk.
Ukraine has the second-largest HIV epidemic in eastern Europe and central Asia, with an estimated 250,000 people living with HIV – and one of the largest HIV responses in the region. More than 150,000 people in Ukraine are on antiretroviral therapy. Many thousands more are particularly vulnerable to acquiring HIV and rely on access to HIV prevention services.