What is HIV?

HIV-infection is a socially dangerous infectious disease that results from the contagion of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), long-term persistence of HIV in lymphocytes, macrophages, and cells of nervous tissue. This disease is characterized by progressing dysfunction of the immune, nervous, lymphatic and other systems of the organism. According to the current ideas, HIV-infection belongs to incurable diseases, is chronic and, in the case of lack of effective therapy, ends in patient’s death.

At present, HIV-infection is spread on all continents and its spread is called HIV/AIDS pandemics, while in Ukraine HIV/AIDS epidemics is developing. Over 179 thousand HIV-infected persons are registered in the country; but according to the estimates of experts, only one-third of those infected knows about it; the total number of people living with HIV in Ukraine reaches 377,600.

HIV is transmitted:

  • Through blood: in case of transfer of blood or other biological fluids containing blood (sperm, vaginal discharge, breast milk) from an HIV-infected person to a healthy one. Most commonly, this happens in cases of drug injection using impure syringes and needles that have already been used by other people.
  • Sexually: during unprotected sexual intercourse, regardless of whether it is vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
  • By transmission of virus from an HIV-infected mother to her child during pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding. The risk of infection rises during breastfeeding, in case of severe course of the disease in the mother, and difficult delivery.

HIV is not transmitted:

  • By using household things, dishes, work in the same premises
  • In bathhouse or sauna
  • Through kissing
  • Through hugging and shaking hands
  • By coughing and sneezing
  • Through rails, doorknobs, tables, chairs
  • Through mosquito or other insect bites.

After contagion, the virus starts to proliferate rapidly, damages different cells, organs, and systems of the organism. In 6-8 weeks, one-third of the infected develops an acute HIV-infection that takes the form of a fever with tenderness, increased temperature, pain in the joints, as it happens often in cases of an ARD; in others, this process remains unnoticed.  In 1.5-3 months after infection, HIV antibodies appear in the blood of the infected person; HIV-infection diagnostics is based on detection of these antibodies. The period from the moment of infection to the formation of HIV antibodies is called “seroconversion or diagnostic window”.

After the acute stage of HIV-infection, the asymptomatic period lasts for 8-10-12 years: usually, people feel well, lead a regular life, however, their lymphonodes are often enlarged and they often catch a cold. Such people are HIV carriers and pose a big threat for their sexual partners and “needle partners”; they cannot be blood or organ donors. The virus that remains in the organism all this time constantly damages cells of the immune system, the so-called CD4 Lymphocytes, which protect the organism against microorganism (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.) invasion. In a healthy organism, their number amounts to 1,000 in a ml of blood. Each year, the number of CD4 in the blood of HIV-infected persons decreases on average by 50 cells, and when their number drops to 300-200 and less, the system of immune protection gets impaired, and the diseases caused by different infectious agents, called ‘opportunistic infection’ in the HIV/AIDS practice, develop. A person feels bad, loses weight, and feels tenderness and fatigability. This stage of the disease is called AIDS. Its manifestations may include herpetic infection (primarily herpes zoster), fungal dermatitis and mycotic stomatitis, tuberculosis is activated or develops for the first time.

Annually, 2 to 3 thousand AIDS cases are diagnosed in Ukraine. A network of specialized prevention and treatment facilities – centers for preventing and fighting AIDS – have been created to provide medical care to patients with AIDS. They provide clinic supervision of HIV-infected patients and AIDS patients, diagnose the stage of the disease, and determine the treatment technique. Starting from 1996, the so-called antiretroviral combination therapy (ACT) has been implemented in the world; it influences directly on HIV, suppresses the proliferation of viral particles, and facilitates strengthening of the immunity, and growth of SD4 numbers, which returns health to the patient. The legislation envisages free of charge treatment of HIV-infected patients at the cost of the State and local budgets, and the funds of donor organizations.

The main means of prevention of HIV-infection spread in the country is a healthy lifestyle, refusal from HIV-risky behavior, mainly the use of drugs, constant use of means of personal protection – condoms – during sexual contacts. Conscious attitude to your health will protect you against AIDS.

Due to the great variability of HIV, the creation of HIV vaccine remains a question to be solved in the future, even despite the fact that AIDS agent was discovered back in 1983 by French researchers at the Dr. Luc Montagnier’s laboratory and American researcher Robert Gallo.

A new batch of HIV Voluntary counseling and testing manuals is available in the Southern region.

Today, HIV infection in Ukraine is a widespread problem among representatives of various groups of the population, including servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This issue remains very relevant, as according to information of World Health Organization, the epidemic and HIV/AIDS mortality rate in Ukraine still the highest in Europe. According to information of the Ministry of Health, the number of HIV infections reaches over 220 thousand.

Informing servicemen about the availability of voluntary counseling and testing cabinets (VCT cabinets) for HIV/AIDS, who continue to work actively in Odessa, is part of the function of a psychologist and this is an important measure to prevent the spread of diseases. At the meeting, doctor provides counseling about sexually transmitted diseases and its prevention. Preventive measures in the South region are being very active for four years in military units such as Naval Academy and the operational command "South".

To reduce the prevalence of HIV infection, persons aged 14 and over are tested. Testing can be performed only with the informed consent of the person who will be tested. This consent is obtained after giving preliminary advice about peculiarities of testing its results and possible consequences, subject to all conditions of confidentiality of personal information, including the health of this person.

According to the head of the VCT cabinet in the Southern region Galina Gutjerez-Molina, a sufficient number of Guidelines for Voluntary Counseling and HIV testing was recently received to the Military Clinical Center.

"Due to such a very valuable, material and cooperation the process of detection of HIV-infection will be greatly improved in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. During January of 2018, more than 200 military personnel on various issues and agreements agreed to try VCT's office for testing and getting information about HIV/AIDS and quick tests. Testing for the presence of antibodies to HIV in the blood of the subjects is conducted in accordance with the principles of VCT. The quick test algorithm consists of several steps and serves to identify antibodies to HIV. The procedure is very easy to use. I would like to thank for the specialized training, where doctors from all over the country have learned how to work with rapid test system. This training was held with the support of the International Institute for HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis in partnership with the Preventive Medicine Service of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

Unfortunately, the cure for this deadly disease is still not found. But we already know that the best treatment is prevention of the disease. The issue of preventing HIV and other socially dangerous diseases among Ukrainian youth, and especially the military personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, is a priority of our present. The servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are our hope and reliance of future, so they should be healthy - and this is one of the main priorities of the state policy" - said Galina.








Carefully HIV!

The public institution "Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine" constantly monitors the health situation in Ukraine. Including, systematic research on the prevalence of HIV infection within the country is conducted.

At the end of last year, operative information about officially registered cases of HIV infection, AIDS and the number of deaths caused by AIDS in December 2017 was published.


Згідно цього документу, в грудні 2017 року в Україні офіційно зареєстровано 1 983 випадки ВІЛ- інфекції серед громадян України та 3 серед іноземців. За період 1987-листопад 2017 рр (без урахування даних АР Крим з 2014 року та частини території проведення антитерористичної операції з 2015 року ) в Україні офіційно зареєстровано 315 617 випадків ВІЛ-інфекції серед громадян України, у тому числі 102 203 випадки захворювання на СНІД та 45 023 випадків смерті від захворювань, зумовлених СНІДом.

According to this document, in December 2017, in Ukraine officially registered 1 983 cases of HIV infection among Ukrainian citizens and 3 among foreigners. In the period from 1987 to November of 2017 (excluding data from Crimea and parts of the counterterrorist operation), 315,617 cases of HIV infection among Ukrainian citizens were officially registered in Ukraine, including 102,203 cases of AIDS and 45,023 deaths due to AIDS-related illnesses.

Keep track of your health and take care of yourself!


How has the conflict in the Donbas contributed to the HIV situation in Ukraine?

Armed conflicts change countries, deform them and lead to expected or unexpected consequences. It concerns absolutely all spheres of life citizens, including healthcare.

According to zone of our responsibility, we are the most interested in finding answers to the question: Is the armed conflict in the East of Ukraine threatened by the epidemic and the active spread of HIV-infections in the territory of Ukraine?

According to The State Institution “Ukrainian Center for Socially Dangerous Disease Control of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine” before the beginning of the military conflict in this territory lived a quarter of all people living with HIV registered in Ukraine. In Donetsk and Luhansk regions was large network of health facilities and NGOs involved in providing services to HIV-infected and high-risk groups for HIV infection. Thus, the epidemic process of HIV infection in the East of Ukraine prior to the start of the anti-terrorist operation in the Donbas was quite active, and the state took all possible measures to ensure the control of the epidemic in these territories.

According to the results of the Operational Survey of the Services for the Prevention, Treatment and Support of HIV/AIDS in the Armed Conflict in the East of Ukraine, the infrastructure for providing HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services to uncontrolled Ukraine’s government territories has not been preserved. The volumes of all types of services and their access to target population groups have decreased. Thus, in health care facilities reduced access to HIV counseling and testing, and the provision of services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV was reduced. Almost no services are provided for the prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections. The number of Health Care Measure in which laboratory support for antiretroviral therapy is carried out has been reduced. No substitution maintenance therapy is provided. In the absence of sufficient funding, non-governmental organizations reduce the delivery of services in the framework of prevention programs for vulnerable groups of the population.

All this created the preconditions for the migration of HIV-infected residents from the territories of Donetsk and Lugansk regions to the government-controlled territory of Ukraine.

Over the past decade, the world community has gained considerable experience in preventing the spread of HIV in areas affected by armed conflicts and humanitarian catastrophes. According to UNAIDS, "people destabilized by armed conflict, including refugees, internally displaced persons, and especially women and children, are at increased risk of HIV transmission". HIV is a critical factor that should be taken into account in the context of forced displacement of people.

At the same time, the UNAIDS report "HIV in the Humanitarian Crisis: Opportunities and Challenges" states that the link between the humanitarian crisis and the HIV epidemic is not always evident. Emergencies can increase the vulnerability to HIV, but this does not necessarily lead to high-risk behaviors or the continued spread of HIV. People who are confronted with conflict or natural disasters often lose their source of income, and some may be compelled to allow high-risk behavior to meet their basic needs. Social and sexual standards can be violated, and women can easily become vulnerable, because in conflict and displacement, they often become victims of rape. At the same time, the humanitarian crisis can play a protective role, since it sometimes reduces the level of population movement and increases access to quality medical and other social services, especially if the movement of people is long lasting.

Thus, the result of the armed conflict in the Donbass does not necessarily have to be a surge of the HIV epidemic in the rest of Ukraine.

Currently, the epidemic situation with HIV in our country is controlled and predictable.

According to mathematical modeling in the Spectrum program, the estimated number of new HIV infections in Ukraine will gradually decrease in the next 4 years, and the estimated number of deaths from AIDS will be halved. And these data include the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol and the whole territory of the ATO-zone.

Despite political and financial problems against the background of the armed conflict in the East of Ukraine and the difficult economic situation, Ukraine managed not only to not stop the implementation of the National Program on HIV / AIDS Response for 2014-2018, to avoid interruptions in the provision of HIV prevention services and treatment, but also to significantly increase state leadership in countering socially dangerous diseases, in particular in terms of program funding.

Since 2015, the issue of simplified registration of HIV-infected internally displaced people and the appointment of antiretroviral therapy has been regulated. Since 2016 Slovyansk and Severodonetsk have been actively involved in the Donetsk and Luhansk region AIDS Centers providing medical care, including internally displaced persons.

With the support of the International NGO "International Institute of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis" in the area of the antiterrorist operation HIV testing of soldiers is provided and awareness-raising campaigns are conducted to reduce the risk of HIV transmission among soldiers and residents of the gray zone of the conflict.

The study clearly indicates data on spatial "redistribution" of infections, rather than new cases of HIV infection. That is demonstrates a scientific proof of the fact that people living with HIV remove from the area of an antiterrorist operation to the territory controlled by the government of the country.

As part of the available statistical information of the Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine on HIV-positive people living with HIV, on October 1, 1712 HIV-infected internally displaced persons were under medical supervision under the government-controlled territories of Ukraine, 118 of them moved from the Crimea and Sevastopol, 1260 from uncontrolled government territories of Donetsk region and 334 Lugansk region. One third of them are under medical supervision on government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions. All internally displaced persons requiring antiretroviral treatment have the opportunity to receive it.

Moreover, according to Yatsek Tyshka, Head of the UN Office on HIV/AIDS in Ukraine, Ukraine, with the assistance of international partners, has succeeded in creating a mechanism that allows anti-retroviral treatment of 8,000 people in uncontrolled Ukrainian government territory.

Thus, with the support of national and international partners, the state takes all possible measures to minimize the impact of armed conflict in the Donbas on the epidemic situation with HIV in Ukraine.

For reference:

Ukraine remains a region with a high HIV prevalence. According to updated HIV/AIDS estimates, in Ukraine at the beginning of 2017 238 thousand people were living with HIV, while in the age group more than 15 years the prevalence of HIV was 0.61%.

During 2017, 50 HIV/AIDS cases, 26 AIDS cases and 9 deaths from AIDS were recorded every day in Ukraine.

According to the official information of the Center of Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, for the last 30 years (for the period from 1987 to 2017), 315,617 cases of HIV infection have been officially registered among Ukrainian citizens, including 102,203 cases of AIDS and 45,023 deaths from AIDS-related diseases. That is, we can say that over 30 years we have lost 45 thousand of our citizens who died because of AIDS.

In October 1, 2017, there were 139,394 HIV-infected citizens in Ukraine (329.6 per 100,000 population), of which 42,666 were diagnosed with AIDS (100.9) in health care facilities under medical supervision. The highest rates of HIV prevalence were recorded in Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Kyiv, Chernihiv oblasts and Kyiv.

According to preliminary data, during the 2017, 18 193 HIV-infected persons were taken to the country for supervision (the incidence rate was 42.4 per 100 thousand population, the rate of growth of the indicator, compared to 2016, was + 6%), 9 306 patient was diagnosed AIDS (incidence rate - 21.9, rate of growth - + 5.8%) and 3,313 people died of AIDS (mortality rate - 7.8, rate of growth - + 2.6%). Tuberculosis has become the cause of death for half of those who died of AIDS (51.1%). Among HIV-infected people registered in 2017, 60.5% were sexually transmitted infections, 20.9% - by parenteral administration of narcotic substances.

This article uses material from the site of the WEB-site of "Center for Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine": https://phc.org.ua/



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