Race to deliver HIV drugs to Ukraine

pharmafile | April 6, 2022 | News story | Research and Development  

WHO is to supply thousands of antiretroviral drugs to Ukraine for patients living with HIV over the next year. UNAIDS, WHO, and UNICEF, working with USAID, United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria are working to ensure the 12-month supply.

Last month, the UN agency for HIV/AIDS warned that Ukraine was left with less than a month’s supply of drugs for HIV patients.

It is estimated that around 260,000 people are living with HIV in Ukraine, the second largest number in Europe, after Russia. Prior to Russia’s invasion, around half of these individuals were on antiretroviral treatment. A delivery of 209 000, 90-day supplies of antiretroviral medicines has arrived in Lviv, Ukraine, ready to be distributed to people in need.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to access the health care they need, including services for HIV,” stated Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “UNAIDS estimates that 260 000 people were living with HIV in Ukraine before the war broke out, 152,000 of whom were taking daily medication for HIV. There is no cure for HIV. Without access to antiretroviral medicines people living with HIV will die.”

Distribution of the antiretroviral drugs poses a significant challenge, particularly in conflict areas.

The World Health Organization estimates that there have been 82 separate attacks on healthcare facilities in Ukraine, including attacks on hospitals, ambulances, and doctors, since the war began. These attacks have killed 72 people, and injured at least 43.

Nearly 50% of Ukraine’s pharmacies are presumed to be closed, and many health workers are either displaced or unable to work, further complicating access to healthcare. 

Additionally, a number of prisons are no longer controlled by the Ukraine government. Prisoners in need must have access to antiretroviral therapy for HIV, or OST (in the case of dependence on opioids). 

WHO has shared that the first batch of HIV antiretrovirals have crossed the Polish border into Ukraine.

Ana Ovey

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