AIDS in Ukraine

In Ukraine, the HIV/AIDS outbreak is among the swiftest developing on the planet. According to experts in 2010, 1.3 % of Ukraine’s adult citizens had contracted HIV. These results showed the largest percentages of anywhere in Europe. There were 360,000 Ukrainian citizens who were noted as HIV-positive in late 2011. From 1987 through late 2012, AIDS ended the lives of 27.8 thousand Ukrainians.  In accordance with 2012 tests, it was disclosed that 57 additional Ukrainians contract HIV within a twenty-four-hour period. Eleven people die every day in Ukraine due to complications from the AIDS virus. This is a large number especially considering that the estimated population of Ukraine was only 45 million in 2012.

Initially back in 1987, Ukraine’s HIV/AIDS population was fairly small. However, intravenous drug use caused the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine during the mid-1990s. Within the area of Eastern Europe, Ukraine now has some of the largest percentages of HIV/AIDS occurrences.


Outbreak of AIDS

In 1987, HIV extended to the land of the old Soviet Union, approximately 5 years after the discovery of the disease. Only a few HIV cases were known in Ukraine before 1995. As a result, the World Health Organization (WHO) considered an outbreak in Ukraine to be unlikely at that time. From 1987 to 1994, only 183 HIV-positive cases were documented.

The main spread of the virus resulted in the mid-1990s from drug abuse and using infected needles.  However, this type of transmission decreased from 84% of all new HIV cases in 1992 to only 57% of all new HIV cases by 2001. In that time, homosexual activity as the cause of transmission increased from 11 percent to 27 percent of all new cases of HIV. In addition, transmission percentages in unborn and newborn children heightened from 2 percent to 13 percent of all occurrences.

Number of registered HIV prevalence rate in Ukraine in 2007

Number of registered HIV prevalence rate in Ukraine in 2007

According to UNAIDS, about 360,000 people have contracted HIV/AIDS, which depicts an adult presence of 1.4 percent.  However, based on estimates from the Ministry of Health, there were over 500,000 citizens contaminated, or close to 2 percent of adult citizens, by 2002.  Currently, the outbreak has extended to all parts of Ukraine.  Presence in the eastern and southern administrative divisions (Donetsk, Odessa, Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk) is three times higher compared to other parts of Ukraine. A recession during the 1990s in the South and East of Ukraine has heavily influenced the huge expansion of the outbreak.  Ukrainians, in the industrialized and urbanized districts, experienced joblessness which led to more frequent alcohol and drug addiction.

The expansion of the virus resulted from drug abuse by using infected needles (from 1995 to 2007).  However, sex dominated how citizens contracted HIV/AIDS by 2008. By 2009, nearly 44 % of new HIV cases transpired as a consequence of sex, and 36 %were by infected needles through drug abuse (according to USAID; whereas according to CSIS, 60% new HIV/AIDS occurrences were from drug abuse by utilizing infected needles in 2009).

Ukrainians living with the virus were around 440,000 citizens or 0.96 percent in 2007. That data increased from 1.46 %, or 685.6 thousand residents in 2005, according to UNAIDS. Ukrainian HIV/AIDS occurrences decreased by 3.9% or from 5.1 to 4.9 thousand in 2008. Infected Ukrainian teenagers represented 25% of those less than 30 years old in 2007.

It was feared in 2008 that the public would be exposed to the HIV/AIDS virus even though the epidemic had continued to exist in primarily isolated and unprotected communities. According to the Ministry of Health, the positive forecasts of a 2% HIV/AIDS ratio in Ukraine were overshadowed back in 2010 with more negative outlooks.


Around 26 percent of prisoners, throughout different Ukrainian detention centers, contracted HIV between 1996 and 2001.Additionally, 95 percent of inmates were found to be infected with Hepatitis C in 2005. This includes more than 147,000 inmates detained in Ukraine prisons and well over 38,000 in jails (prior to trial) during the early part of 2010.

The AIDS epidemic among children

HIV infections among women and children in 2007

HIV infections among women and children in 2007

Each year, Ukrainian mothers infected with HIV increase by 20 to 30%. Consequently, the number of children who contract the virus is also increasing. Ukrainian mothers with HIV in 2007 had the uppermost indicator in Europe of 0.34% according to the United Nations (UN). According to the UN, close to 18,000 Ukrainian babies were born from HIV infected mothers.  Furthermore, 10,200 babies did not succumb to the virus even though their mothers carried HIV. An additional 5,500 young children less than 18 months are still of undetermined HIV status. In Ukraine alone, 1,877 young children are officially documented as carrying HIV, and 244 have sadly succumbed to AIDS. Preventive programs have decreased the number of Ukrainian children contracting HIV via their mothers from 27% in 2000 to 7% in 2006.

Preventive Measures

Harm Reduction Programs

As of 2003, Ukraine has focused on programs involving narcotic replacements. Since September 2008, these programs were presented to around 2,200 individuals in 38 locations around Ukraine. A drug called Buprenorphine (Trademark Subutex) is the main narcotic replacement that has been given out. Buprenorphine costs a lot more than a similar drug Methadone. In addition, Buprenorphine is used less frequently around the world and less is known about it than Methadone. However, Buprenorphine (viewed as a pain reliever) is respected by both the general public and elected officials. Methadone, by contrast, is regarded as a narcotic with a bill forwarded to the citizens.

In 2012, in response to a lack of AIDS supplies in Ukrainian health centers, HIV/AIDS advocates spoke out against Health Ministry representatives.  These public health officials were accused of stealing funds meant to give medical care to those with AIDS. They purchased such medications at excessive costs and later collected payments .

National response

The laws in Ukraine are usually helpful for fighting the outbreak of HIV/AIDS. However, there is a breach between federal-level procedures and localized operations. The National AIDS Committee was created to help organize operations better in 1992, but was shut down due to funding shortages in 1998.  The government started the National AIDS Control Coordinating Council in 1999, which ordered that every Ukrainian territory create HIV prevention programs. Another federal plan was approved to help fight HIV/AIDS in 2001. This plan involved finding ways to avoid the continued outbreak of HIV. It also created methods to help care for HIV-positive people including communal assistance and guidance for individuals.

HIV/AIDS is treated by the administration mainly as a health issue. Prevention programs created to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS receive most of their financial assistance through global institutions. Isolated regions of Ukraine are less likely to utilize federal establishments; therefore, such populations are falling through the cracks and are unable to receive helpful materials like HIV tests. A main obstacle individuals with HIV/AIDS face to gaining access to facts and assistance is shame. This shame is often brought on by the Ukrainian health industry itself. On December 10, 2010, the first support group for Ukrainians with AIDs was formed.