PWUD project Ukraine

Needle exchange and substitution therapy are crucial to halt the HIV epidemic. Photograph by Adriaan Backer for Aidsfonds

We believe that the end of AIDS is possible if there is more focus on key populations. Our project in Ukraine addresses barriers faced by the PWUD community related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Driven by community champions, we work to realize strong collaboration with civil society; meanginful involvement in coordination council; transforming qualified specialists into activists; increased awareness, motivation and skills of PWUD to demand human rights; decriminalization of drug use; and access to high quality health services and comprehensive packages of services for (young) PWUD.

On-going war and low access to health for PWUD

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Ukraine has been growing since the early 1990s among key
populations. The HIV epidemic observed in Ukraine is the second largest HIV epidemic among Eastern European and Central Asian countries. During the last five years, progress in HIV response and a decreasing HIV rate among several key populations has been achieved with technical and financial support from international donors. However, HIV prevalence is still high with 21.9% among PWID. Since 2009, the Ukrainian state took financial responsibility for ART but not for the comprehensive country HIV response. In early 2014 Ukraine was hit by socio-economic and political crisis with the occupation and annexation of the Crimea.

The ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine has caused many people to leave non-Ukraine controlled territories amid high violence, crises in access to food and accommodation, and massive human rights violations. It has become hard or almost impossible for KPs in rebel-controlled territories to get opioid substitution therapy (OST), harm reduction services and ART. War and waves of internally displaced people (IDPs) have led to shortages in domestic funding, and pushed HIV response down to the lowest priority for state and local governments.

PWUD claim a right-based HIV and SRHR response

Bridging the Gaps works with a Theory of Change approach. A Theory of Change is a description of a list of events that is expected to lead to a particular desired outcome. It is a visualization of how change is believed to happen. In 2016, representatives of the PWUD community developed a specified Theory of Change We that consists of short-,medium, and long term outcomes. The Theory of Change describes how we plan to realize strong collaboration with civil society; meanginful involvement in coordination council; transforming qualified specialists into activists; increased awareness, motivation and skills of PWUD to demand human rights; decriminalization of drug use; and access to high quality health services and comprehensive packages of services for (young) PWUD.

Through innovation and by building on previous work, we will strengthen civil society organisations’ ability to:

1. We facilitate community development

  • Raising awareness among public and key populations on HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and TB through community events and peer leaders;
  • Training and involving peer leaders in organizing public events, raising awareness
    among community on human rights, drug use and SRHR;
  • Reaching new clients and contributing to changing attitudes of public to drug issues through community events, such as photo exhibitions;
  • Building capacity of peer leaders and supporting initiative groups of young PWUD;
  • Identifying and training youth peer leaders among project clients and volunteers;
  • Organising focus groups among young female clients in order to evaluate their needs in services and barriers in accessing them;
  • Mobilising young PWUD community via social media.

2. We advocate for the continuously strengthening of services and upholding human rights

  • Collaborating with the Ombudsman on Children’s Rights to include issues of working with young PWUD including the access to secondary prevention and rehabilitation in the National Action Plan on The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child;
  • Working with Probation Agency and Criminal Police on Child Issues;
  • Developing a tool for monitoring and documenting the cases of violation of rights of young
    PWUD;
  • Organizing a hotline on human rights violations in Kirovograd.
  • Organizing a legal Clinic in Kharkiv;
  • Cooperating with the local police to ensure human rights of young PWUD;
  • Training on advocacy and communication for country partners;
  • Conducting regional advocacy and public awareness;
  • Conducting advocacy campaign based on Human Rights Count with female PWUD.

3. Deliver inclusive, rights-based and gender sensitive services

  • Providing health and legal services for PWUD;
  • Supporting the Knowledge Centre a resource centre for service providers;
  • Conducting outreach;
  • Developing and disseminating IEC materials.

4. Foster global and in-country processes and partnerships that reinforce results

  • Conducting a clients’ needs assessment, analysis of existing service provision algorithms and local policies;
  • Developing the Protocol on primary consultation of underage PWUD for social workers and
    psychologists;
  • Participating in the development and implementation of the Action plan 2016 within the National Drug Strategy (2016-2020).

Our partners

Our project builds on the strong advocacy work of our partners NGO “Return to Life”, NGO “New Family”, NGO “Blago”, NGO “Public Health” and AFEW Ukraine to put PWUD’ health issues on the political agenda and get them included in national plans. Their work is internationally supported by AFEW and GNP+.

Our other projects in Ukraine

Bridging the Gaps also has a LGBT people project and a sex worker project in Ukraine.