Karine Jean-Pierre
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Ensuring Lifesaving Medications Reach Ukrainians Living With HIV

Line outside pharmacy in Kyiv, Ukraine

With all the death, destruction, and heartache coming from Vladimir Putin’s bombardment of Ukraine, it’s easy to forget that those with chronic diseases have been cut off from their lifesaving medications.

There’s been somewhat of an inability of health care providers to reach local communities in the country because of the destruction and dangers precipitated by the war. For that reason, among its other duties, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), an independent agency of the U.S. federal government that is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance, is leading the effort to collect and distribute HIV medications to people living with HIV in Ukraine.

“Together, in partnership with 100% Life, the largest patient organization in Ukraine, we are working towards supplying and distributing HIV medications to HIV+ people in Ukraine,” says Dr. Atul Gawande, global health administrator for USAID. “Because of the destruction and isolation that brings to so many people, we are ordering and supplying a year’s worth of HIV treatment medication, and with 100% Life, distributing it in regions across the country.”

100% Life has been a longtime partner to USAID and helps the organization connect the dots in order to create an effective supply chain, Gawande says. “There are processes in place even though almost 90 percent of the country has been closed or under attack,” he says. “We’ve been primarily successful in the western part of the country, which is the safest part at this time.”

Ukraine has the second-largest HIV epidemic in the region with nearly 250,000 people living with HIV, many of whom do not know they are positive, according to USAID. The epidemic is concentrated among key populations: people who inject drugs, female sex workers, and men who have sex with men. USAID receives support from PEPFAR to provide technical assistance to develop a health system that raises the capacity of Ukrainian organizations to deliver high-quality HIV services and links people living with HIV to treatment and care.

“The people doing the work are risking their lives,” Gawande says. “Initially, these folks had to flee and after a couple of weeks reconstituted and then resumed keeping in contact and tracking down those who need HIV medication. It’s a laborious process to make sure everyone has their meds who need it.”

So far, the process is going well, he says: “We are getting in the rhythm of ordering, supplying, transporting, and delivering the meds in what are not the most favorable conditions. We’re helping to enable the reestablishment of the medical supply chain, working also with the Ukrainian government and nearly 5,000 humanitarian organizations throughout the country. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s being done, and we will continue to do what we have to do to make sure everyone has their medications.”

Tags: Health, Ukraine

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