Improving life quality for HIV-positive internally displaced persons – such was the objective of Inspiring to Live… Project implemented by Hope (Spodivannia) Charitable Foundation in Zaporizhzhia from April to July 2017. Supported by Pope for Ukraine Initiative, the Foundation offers expensive tests for IDP living with HIV/AIDS and creates comfortable conditions for their stay at inpatient department of Zaporizhzhia Regional AIDS Prevention and Treatment Centre.
“During initial stages of the conflict in 2014,” Natalia Dotsenko, President of Hope CF, says “we found ourselves in a situation when we were approached by people who just came to Zaporizhzhia with nothing on their hands but a Client Card – a unified document recognized throughout Ukraine which allows injection drug patients and people with HIV to receive certain services at HIV-service NGOs of any city. The services include consultations regarding referral to AIDS-centres, help with tests and getting ART or anti-tuberculosis therapy. In other words, people from occupied territories, including Donetsk, Alchevsk, Makiivka and Horlivka, approached us. Back at home they benefitted from programmes offered by similar organizations and they knew about our organization in Zaporizhzhia and came to us.
At first the number of such people was small, but then it increased dramatically and a Decree was passed by the Ministry of Healthcare which established that such people were to be registered at territories they moved to. An institution they can be registered at is Zaporizhzhia Regional AIDS Prevention and Treatment Centre. In order to get antiretroviral therapy here and have disability group determined, people should undergo tests, which are not free of charge unfortunately, and not everyone can pay for them. So we created a small-scale project and received a grant from Pope for Ukraine Initiative in the amount of 556,380 UAH.”
Natalia says that 89 comprehensive tests for 29 people have been conducted since then. She explains that patients sometimes need several tests to be conducted and they may take a long time to complete. Overall, during 2.5 months of the project 80 persons got consultations from doctors of Zaporizhzhia or Melitopol City AIDS Centres, infectious disease specialists and social workers.
“A multidisciplinary team of medical specialists is working within the project. They examine each person who requires help and refer them for tests. This is approved in a documented form by head physician of regional AIDS centre and a referral to a medical centre is issued where tests are run which we pay for.”
What is particular about HIV-positive IDP is that apart from health problems, they suffer from psychological and social problems caused by the need to leave their homes. Which is why psychologists and social workers of the Foundation who deal with such patients also help them and offer support.
“Despite the fact that HIV/AIDS is a common disease for all these people, it reveals itself differently in every person’, Natalia explains. “For a person to be able to get antiretroviral therapy normally, a lot must be done, and people sometimes don’t do anything as they have no money. When we deal with those who came here because of the armed conflict in the East of Ukraine and have no additional sources of financing, such support becomes very important.”
Hope CF has a permanent consultation office for HIV-positive people and has been cooperating with doctors from polyclinic and inpatient department of regional AIDS centre. A share of grant money extended by Pope for Ukraine Initiative was spent on purchasing equipment for inpatient department where IDP with HIV/AIDS are being treated. We bought several special hospital beds for patients needing palliative treatment, air conditioners were installed in two wards, two patient monitors were bought which enable patient control using state of the art methods. In addition, we bought one portable 5-reflector surgical light with emergency power supply and three sterilizing lamps.
“This project is called Inspiring to Live… because many people who come to us are stigmatized and discriminated in other institutions because of their disease,” Natalia says. “Here they have a safe territory and they trust our social workers and doctors who work with us.”
Previously, on April 15, Hope CF completed Warmth at Home Project, which lasted for two months and was also supported by Pope for Ukraine Initiative. They supplied coal and heaters to IDP of Huliay Pole, Prymorske, Bilmak and Rozivka Districts of Zaporizhzhia Region. The project helped provide heaters for 33 families and coal (720 kg per family) for 208 families.