HIV, cancer patients demand Cabinet to pay for their medicines

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Protesters hold banners reading, "I have AIDS, I'm shut off by the Cabinet of Ministers", "I have cancer, I'm shut off by The Cabinet of Ministers", "I have hepatitis, I'm shut off by The Cabinet of Ministers" as they attend a rally to demand the restoration of the state funding of the essential medicines near the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv on March 1.

Story by Yana StepaniukOn March 1, some 20 people living with HIV, cancer, hemophilia and other severe illnesses, protested near the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv. They demanded the government to redistribute money in the 2016 state budget in order to allocate more funds for their treatment.

In the current budget there is Hr 4.1 billion allocated for the medication for seriously ill people. The protesters said that since the medication is purchased abroad and the hryvnia devaluated in the past year, the actual sum needed is twice as high and comes to Hr 8.1 billion.

The Healthcare Committee and the Budget Committee of Verkhovna Rada, the Cabinet of Ministers must have been allocated additional Hr 4 billion until March 1. Nevertheless, these amendments have not been made.

“We have already organized many actions next to the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine. However, there was no reaction,” says Olga Stefanyshyna, the executive director of the charitable foundation Patients of Ukraine, who organized the protest. “Actually, there is a lot of excessive expenses in the budget that can be reduced to find the money. Officials could give up personal guards, or the spendings on the petrol for lawmakers’ cars could be cut down.”

According to the statistics provided by the Patients of Ukraine, more than 100,000 patients won’t receive their treatment in 2016 if the budget isn’t revised. Most of them suffer from hepatitis, AIDs or tuberculosis.

Iryna Holovan, 55, was one of the protesters. Shw suffers from the chronic myelogenous leukemia. She needs to take four pills of an expensive medicine called Nilotinib. Each pill costs Hr 750, meaning that the treatment very expensive.

According to Holovan, now 193 people in Ukraine need lifelong therapy of Nilotinib. In her home region, Poltava Oblast, the current stock of this medicine will be sufficient only for 9 weeks. In some other regions, it has already run out, she says.

The budget allocates Hr 397 million for treatment of adults suffering from cancer, while Hr 532.2 million is needed, according to the activists.

“When you stop taking these pills, you die in a month,” says Holovan. “My reserve runs out on March 7. If nothing will change, I’ll ask my husband to take me here, to the Cabinet of Ministers. I will die here. Maybe my death will help other people receive their treatment.”

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