Reducing HIV/AIDS Risk in Ukraine for Injection Drug Users

Viktor takes medication as part of MAT under supervision of Galyna Symutenkova, nurse at Lubny Regional Narcology Clinic.
Viktor takes medication under the supervision of Galyna Symutenkova, a nurse at the Lubny Regional Narcology Clinic.
Poltava Charitable Foundation Svitlo Nadiyi
Addicts find support from doctors, social workers, counselors
“Now I do not need to spend all my time searching for drugs. It is the first time that I have begun thinking about my health and enjoying life. And I know how to protect myself from AIDS.”

July 2015—Viktor* is a 44-year-old drug addict from Ukraine with a long history of injection drug use punctuated by a series of prison sentences.

He decided to change his life for the better last year by entering the Seven Steps Program implemented under USAID’s Improving HIV/AIDS Service for Most At-Risk Populations in Ukraine (RESPOND Project).

Seven Steps is a program to reduce HIV/hepatitis and sexually transmitted infection risk for people who inject drugs. The program promotes enrollment in care, drug treatment, and medication assisted therapy by teaching participants to seek medical attention and social support while undergoing positive behavior change.

In Ukraine, people who inject drugs often encounter barriers when attempting to access health care and social services due to lack of information, mistrust of others, and stigma that fosters a fear of disclosure.

The Seven Steps model helps to increase participation in the health care system by motivating people who inject drugs to take action to change their lives. The program is delivered in seven sessions during a three- to six-month period consisting of individualized counseling and comprehensive case management.

In five months, Viktor, who is from Lubny in the country’s Poltava region, went through all seven modules and, supported by a psychologist and a social worker, enrolled in medication assisted therapy. He took an HIV test, had a chest X-ray, and consulted with a narcologist and a surgeon. During regular sessions with a psychologist, Viktor began to give more thought to his life, health, behavior and relationships.

“Now I do not need to spend all my time searching for drugs. It is the first time that I have begun thinking about my health and enjoying life. And I know how to protect myself from AIDS,” Viktor said, adding that some fellow addicts had entered the Seven Steps program as well. “I did not even have to persuade them. They saw how I’d changed and they wanted to have the same change in their lives. I told them that, with professional support, they’d get over it as I did.”

USAID began implementing Seven Steps in August 2014 in four regions of Ukraine: Mykolayiv, Cherkasy, Poltava and Zaporizhzhya. To date, over 940 people who inject drugs have enrolled in the program.

The Improving HIV/AIDS Service for Most At-Risk Populations in Ukraine (RESPOND Project), which runs from 2012 through 2017, aims to assist the Government of Ukraine and civil society to reduce HIV transmission among key populations through sustainable country-led programs.

*Full name withheld to protect identity.

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Last updated: March 04, 2016

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