A Canadian group has just been holding a pow-wow on HIV prevention in Ukraine. The Winnipeg Free Press notes that Winnipeg’s the right place to be holding these discussions because the city is home to so many people whose roots are in Ukraine.
In fact, it’s appropriate in another way. Ukraine’s HIV risk looks a lot like Canada’s, but its response doesn’t look enough like Canada’s. In both countries, drug injection is a major driver of HIV. But Ukraine has been very slow to put in place any kind of harm reduction. In mid 2006 it still had no national methadone programme. And it only began to make clean needles more easily available to injectors through pharmacies last year. The result: between 20% and 50% of the Ukrainians who inject drugs are infected with HIV. (pdf) It’s great that Winnipeg’s International Center for Infectious Diseases is hosting this meeting. But here’s hoping Ukrainian participants also close their ears to the Harper government’s war-on-drugs rhetoric and find time to go visit some of the members of the Manitoba Harm Reduction Network.