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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK
Eastern Europe hit by HIV rise
Drug use is rife in parts of Ukraine
Drug use is rife in parts of Ukraine

Eastern Europe and the former Soviet states now have the sharpest increase in HIV infections in the world.

In Ukraine, 1% of the population has already contracted the virus, and the worst predictions are that the figure could double within a decade.

In places like Odessa, a vibrant commercial city nestled by the Black Sea, social and economic factors have fuelled the infection.

The tree-lined boulevards belie the fact that drug abuse is rife, as is prostitution, and the virus has now entered the general population.

It is only seven years since the first cases of HIV were recorded in Ukraine.

Over that time, official figures show cases have increased from about 1,400 to 43,000.

Children a priority

Unofficial estimates say it could be seven times that amount.

Experts predict that unless the spread can be halted now, this could be the next Africa.

As in Africa, Ukrainians find anti-retroviral drugs too expensive - even basic medicines like aspirin are in short supply in many of the country's hospitals.

Doctors say that what limited money there is, goes on supplies of rubber gloves to protect them from infection.

The few drugs they do have are reserved for children.

Trying to prevent the spread to the next generation is now a priority for the Ukrainian health service.

UN fund hopes

But it can barely afford the drugs to try and keep newborn babies free of the disease - let alone offer treatment to their mothers who already carry the infection.

The country is now pinning its hopes on the newly formed global health fund created by the United Nations last year.

Among the first in line for help, it's expected to get $92m over the next five years.

The key question is how that money should be divided between prevention and treatment?

Stopping the spread still further is a logical step to take - but many argue that denying those infected treatment gives a disincentive for people to come forward to HIV tests in the first place.

There are still hopes that this country on the eastern fringes of Europe still has a chance to turn itself around - opportunities are there - but if they're missed the consequences could be catastrophic.


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02 Jul 02 | Health
02 Jul 02 | Health
01 Dec 01 | In Depth
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