8,000 HIV Patients at Risk in E. Ukraine

8,000 HIV Patients at Risk in E. Ukraine8,000 HIV Patients at Risk in E. Ukraine

Some 8,000 people with HIV in war-torn eastern Ukraine face a critical shortage of medicine and their supply will run out in mid-August unless a blockade is lifted, a UN AIDS envoy warned.

Speaking ahead of the International AIDS Society conference, Michel Kazatchkine called on key nations to intervene as soon as possible, AFP reported.

“I am calling on the United States, Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia to do something,” said Kazatchkine, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

He said 8,000 patients are caught in the political crossfire between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists because they need both antiretroviral treatments and opioids, which are now blocked at border checkpoints.

The looming crisis is centered in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions. The area once housed 25% of Ukraine’s HIV-positive population, but thousands have already fled.

He said the treatments are already paid for and the aid group Doctors Without Borders has pledged to deliver and oversee treatment. But Ukraine will not allow the drugs to be shipped and argues the opioids require armed convoys.

 Rebels Pull Back Light Weapons

Separatists in eastern Ukraine said they have begun pulling back military vehicles with small-caliber weapons from most of the frontlines.

The fighters said on Sunday tanks and armored vehicles with weapons under 100 mm would be pulled back by as far as 3 km in Donetsk and Luhansk.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors the ceasefire, has said neither of the rival sides has fully withdrawn even heavy artillery as required by the peace deal, signed in February.

This is while witnesses said Ukrainian Army tanks were seen in a zone that was supposed to be clear of all heavy weapons, but the soldiers justified their presence by saying that the separatists were also violating the truce deal.

More than 6,400 people have been killed since the war started in April 2014, according to the UN.