AIDS patients to protest eviction from clinic on July 7

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July 6, 2010, 3:51 p.m. | Ukraine — by Peter Byrne
Patients of an HIV/AIDS clinic will lie on their mattresses in front of the Cabinet building on Hrushevsky Street, protesting against a recent government decision to evict the clinic from its premises adjacent to the Kyiv’s Pecherska Lavra. Inna Boyko, a policy and advocacy officer for the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with AIDS, said about 50 patients at the clinic would participate in the protest in Kyiv. Hundreds more are expected to stage similar protests in major cities across Ukraine, she added.

The name of the nationwide protest action is “Selling Hospitals is Expensive.”

Dmytro Sherembey, deputy head of the coordination council of the All-Ukrainian People Living with Aids Network, told the German news agency Deutsche Welle that government officials have offered no explanation for the decision.

“We learned that the building the clinic will be turned into a VIP hotel for visitors to [Kyiv’s Pecherska] Lavra,” Sherembey said.

The Lavra clinic currently treats 1,000 of Kyiv’s estimated 50,000 HIV patients on an out-patient basis.

Vitaly Lukyanenko, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov’s press secretary, told the Kyiv Post on July 6 that the government has indeed ordered arrangements to be made to move the clinic, and the Ministry of Health and the Academy of Medical Sciences are working on plans to re-locate the facility.

“There is no reason for hysteria. None of the patients at the Lavra clinic will be evicted,” Lukyanenko said.

The clinic, which now specializes in treating people with HIV/AIDS, is run by the Hromashevskyi Institute of Epidemiology and Infectious diseases, and was opened with much fanfare in November 2002 by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan during his visit to Kyiv.

The Lavra clinic is acknowledged in Ukraine as having the best medical practices for the treatment of people with HIV – albeit still short of international standards and budgets. It also has a strong base for the advanced training of infectious disease doctors in Ukraine and neighboring countries.

Prime Minister Azarov signed an order on June 14 to move the clinic by July 16. To date, no provisions have been made for transferring the patients, doctors at the clinic and HIV/AIDS workers said.

Svetlana Doan, Deputy head of Hromashevskyi Institute of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases said she is not authorized to comment on the matter.

Ukraine has of the fastest-growing infection rates in the world. The numbers are so alarming that many health experts still worry about whether the disease will spread from high-risk groups, where it has been concentrated, and start assuming African-like dimensions by spreading to the general population as well.

Some 500,000 people are believed to be HIV positive in Ukraine.

Related article: Living with AIDS
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