Ukraine hard hit by HIV
Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit travelled to Ukraine in her capacity as Special Representative for UNAIDS. Unfortunately, the Crown Princess sustained a concussion after a fall, and was forced to cancel her participation. Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, and the Norwegian delegation completed the activities on the programme.
Ukraine has the most severe HIV epidemic in Europe and Central Asia. At the same time, HIV-positive individuals are forming networks and leading the effort to combat stigmatisation of and improve services for people with HIV and AIDS.
One such network, the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV, was honoured with the Red Ribbon Award two years ago for its work against discrimination. The award was presented by Crown Princess Mette-Marit at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada. The official visit to Ukraine began on Monday, 20 October, with a meeting at the networks offices. The programme continued with a visit to a local centre for people with HIV. The centre has around 1,500 users a year and offers a wide range of psychosocial and practical support, treatment and information services. Norwegian Church Aid, among others, has provided funding to the centre.
Later that day the Ambassador of Norway in Ukraine, Mr Olav Berstad, hosted a lunch for representatives from the most-at-risk communities. Female and male prostitutes, intravenous drug users and other individuals at risk came together to share experiences from their day-to-day lives and the challenges they face as people living with HIV. Many spoke of problems stemming from inadequate support and treatment services.
That evening the ambassador hosted a reception for 150 people, many of whom are engaged in HIV and AIDS-related activities in Ukraine through non-governmental organisations or as youth peer educators. In her absence, the ambassador read the Crown Princesss speech and Dr Peter Piot highlighted some of the excellent work being done at the grassroots level to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Ukraine.
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