September 27, 2005 - Eight people die of AIDS in Ukraine every day. This message, repeated on television daily and for the next three months, will be pounded into Ukrainians’ consciousness until no one can claim ignorance of the facts.
The idea behind a new public information campaign, backed by a World Bank loan to the Ukrainian government, is to stanch an epidemic which has become much more than a health problem.
Increasingly, world governments understand that HIV/AIDS also threatens socio-economic development, productivity, the welfare of ordinary people, and even national security.
One of the world's fastest growing AIDS epidemics
In Europe and Central Asia (a World Bank grouping which includes Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union), the need for action is dire. The region is experiencing one of the world’s fastest-growing HIV/AIDS epidemics.
According to UNAIDS, in 2004, 210,000 people in Europe and Central Asia became newly infected with HIV, bringing the number of people living with HIV/AIDS to an estimated 1.4 million. In the same year, HIV/AIDS claimed the lives of an estimated 60,000 people. The vast majority of reported infections are among young people, chiefly injecting drug users.
Ukraine as well as Estonia, and the Russian Federation, had the highest adult prevalence rates in the region at the end of 2004. Meanwhile, more people in Ukraine are infected with HIV every day and the rate of infection is growing fast.
“It is urgent that ordinary citizens become aware of the dangers of the epidemic. The mass media has a crucial role to play in educating people, promoting better understanding of the problem, and engaging political leaders, policy makers and key stakeholders so that combating AIDS becomes a national priority,” said Paul Bermingham, Director for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, speaking at the National Press Club in Kyiv during the launch of a public information campaign on AIDS on September 19, 2005.
This campaign will be implemented under the Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Epidemics Control Project supported by a US$60 million loan from the World Bank. The World Bank is well placed to help Ukraine in its fight against HIV/AIDS. It has committed over US1.7 billion worldwide to the global cause, and, as of 2004, had allocated US$215.5 million for HIV/AIDS projects in the ECA region alone.
“We are very thankful for the World Bank’s support to our National Program for Fighting AIDS,” said Viacheslav Khanenko, Ukraine's First Deputy Minister of Health, during the campaign launch.
The main goals of the new public information campaign are to:
Teach people how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and stress the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle
Inform people about local and national measures designed to counter the epidemic
Promote tolerance towards those who are HIV-infected as well as their families
Ignorance of the facts is widespread
According to recent surveys conducted under the TB and HIV/AIDS Project, only 53% of young people feel they have sufficient knowledge of HIV/AIDS. In the course of in-depth interviews, only 0.7% of young people surveyed were able to distinguish between correct and incorrect information about HIV/AIDS.
“It is surprising to see how little people know about the reality of HIV/AIDS in Ukraine and how few people realize they are personally at risk. Even journalists view this problem as something very distant. I think that a public education campaign needs to target the media first of all, since we [journalists] are responsible for telling people the truth,” said Volodymyr Gutsyl, Senior Correspondent at the National TV Channel “Kyiv”. Mass media -and especially television- is the most effective and trusted source of information on the disease.
PBN, the company which was asked by the Ministry of Health to design a publication information campaign, presented a first set of products targeting mostly young audiences. The company created high-impact posters, leaflets with simple graphics and a 20-second video clip in which young people are urged to protect themselves and their friends. In the next few months a series of educational sessions for journalists will be conducted in Kyiv and four other big cities - Donetsk, Odessa, Poltava, and L’viv - which are the most severely affected by the epidemic.
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For a detailed account of the spread of AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, read UNAIDS’ Epidemic Update from 2004.
Click here for an overview of the World Bank's work on HIV/AIDS in the region, including recent research and regional initiatives.
In Ukraine, call the following phone number to learn more:
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