Fighting AIDS in the Ukraine

September 1, 2016

Acting HRSA Administrator Jim Macrae and the HIV/AIDS Bureau's (HAB) Polly Ross, Sherrillyn Crooks and Associate Administrator Laura Cheever
Acting HRSA Administrator Jim Macrae and the HIV/AIDS Bureau's (HAB) Polly Ross, Sherrillyn Crooks and Associate Administrator Laura Cheever met with a delegation from the Ukraine Ministry of Health on a recent visit to HRSA.

Experiencing one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in the world -- with nearly 40,000 deaths to date -- the war-torn Ukraine is seeking to improve its disease surveillance and patient-tracking systems to better manage the epidemic.

At the beginning of 2015 — before the ceasefire in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of eastern Ukraine —  there were 218,000 HIV-positive persons (ages 15 and over) living in the nation of 45 million people.  But less than half (130,000) were registered at health care facilities, according to the HRSA-funded International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH).

Bordered by seven Eastern European countries, the Ukraine has experienced a particularly high prevalence of HIV transmission by injection drug use.

I-TECH provides technical assistance to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health's Center for Socially Dangerous Disease Control -- its version of the CDC -- which receives funding from the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Ukraine health officials and HRSA staff met on June 26 to discuss ideas on combatting the disease — such as creating universal patient registries and spurring workforce development.

Clockwise from top-left, Dr. Harold Phillips​ (HAB) compares notes with RADM Kerry Nesseler (OGH);​ Tracy Carson (HHS/OGA) greets Iryna Yuryeva, I-TECH Ukraine; Olga Vysotska, Dir. Family Medicine Training, Bogomolets National Medical University; Dr. Maryana Sluzhynska, L'viv Regional AIDS Center; Mykhailo Riabinchuk and Vitaliy Karanda, Ukrainian Ministry of Health; Iryna Yuryeva; Abby Plusen, MidAtlantic AIDS Education Training Center, University of Maryland-Baltimore
Common Cause: Clockwise from top-left, Dr. Harold Phillips​ (HAB) compares notes with RADM Kerry Nesseler (OGH);​ Tracy Carson (HHS/OGA) greets Iryna Yuryeva, I-TECH Ukraine; Olga Vysotska, Dir. Family Medicine Training, Bogomolets National Medical University; Dr. Maryana Sluzhynska, L'viv Regional AIDS Center; Mykhailo Riabinchuk and Vitaliy Karanda, Ukrainian Ministry of Health; Iryna Yuryeva; Abby Plusen, MidAtlantic AIDS Education Training Center, University of Maryland-Baltimore.

Vitaliy Karanda, an internationally recognized authority from the Ukraine's disease control agency, commented on his country's "totally national response to two epidemics — HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis."

"We are just at the starting point of designing a medical-information system exclusively for HIV/AIDS" — something "very difficult to design" because of concerns over patient confidentiality​ and data security, a central issue for electronic health records designers in the U.S. and abroad.  

Dr. Harold Phillips, HAB training and capacity development director, explained that client-level data systems surrounding the Ryan White program "tell us about the progress of our particular programs, (but) they do not give the entire national picture."  

For each of the 500,000 Ryan White patients — about half of all those living in the U.S. with diagnosed infections --- "there is a unique client record that allows us to look at the services they received and track their health outcomes," said Phillips. But the system is not unified.

Also at the table was Iryna Yuryeva, an international expert in continuing education and career development who has served Ukraine I-TECH at the University of Washington si​​nce 2013. She expressed deep concern about getting care to those who need it most in her homeland, despite its public health and political crises.

"It is a struggle," she said.

Learn more about the latest PEPFAR statistics on HIV/AIDS in the Ukraine​.​

For more information, visit I-Tech. ​

Date Last Reviewed:  July 2017