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2011 High Level Meeting on AIDS
General Assembly, UN, New York, 8-10 June 2011

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Statements and Webcast

Person openly living with HIV
H.E. Ms. Tatyana Afanasiadi


8 June 2011

  • Statement: English (Check against delivery)

Statement Summary

TATYANA AFANASIADI, a woman from Ukraine openly living with HIV, said that her country was experiencing the fastest-growing epidemic of HIV infection and that the seaport city in which she lived had the highest HIV prevalence rate.  She had been living with HIV and using drugs for 13 years, had hepatitis C for almost 11 years, and had a family, husband and eight-year-old son who did not have HIV and gave her great support.  Three years ago, she took part in an opioid substitution therapy programme that enabled her to live, work, be an active citizen and take care of her son.  Describing how people who used drugs survived in her region, she noted that 70 per cent of drug users in Eastern Europe and Central Asia were HIV-positive and that 90 per cent had various types of viral hepatitis, but that only one person out of five had access to antiretroviral therapy.  Harm reduction programmes were being oppressed and drug dependency was considered a crime, rather than a disease.  “Drug dependency and HIV-infection require treatment, not prosecution,” she said. 

In the case of women using drugs, the situation got more complicated, she added, noting that, if such women decided to give birth, they could not go to a drug treatment clinic, because they would be registered as a drug addict and be deprived of their child.  HIV-infection was grounds for refusal of admission to crisis centres, so, as a result, such women often started to sell sex services and became exposed to violence.  Necessary HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI) prevention programmes oriented towards women needed to continue to be developed.

Opioid substitution therapy was also a powerful tool against the HIV epidemic, she said. The progressive decision to start substitution therapy programmes had helped more than 6,0000 people in Ukraine, but 50,000 people in the country were still waiting for such help.  She also pointed out that, because most countries of Eastern Europe did not have opioid substitution programmes, she could not visit them because her treatment was illegal there, “just like street drugs.” Given that opioid substitution therapy in her home city had changed people’s lives, returned them to their families, helped them to find jobs and stopped them from committing crimes, it was time to stop refusing antiretroviral treatment to people who used drugs.

What was needed now were specific targets, an ambitious declaration and the political will of governments to endorse it, she said, noting that her life and health and those of millions of other people depended on the decisions of the high-level meeting.  She, along with thousands of other people, was in need of hepatitis C treatment, which was not available in their region.  Thousands of other people waiting for antiretroviral treatment had died without it.  “That is why no compromises, like 80% of access, can be accepted.”  The representatives of key populations demanded 100% access to HIV treatment, as well as treatment of tuberculosis, hepatitis, opportunistic infections, and drug dependency.  She insisted on the active engagement of key communities in programme development and policy-making by Member States in response to the epidemic.

Source: GA/11086