Kyiv, 24 March 2014 – “Until the Crimean government has dealt with the Ukrainian military bases in Crimea, they will not get down to tackling social issues. But we are talking about a serious humanitarian crisis which can affect thousands of people. Specifically, patients on drug replacement therapy will become one of the first refugees from Crimea,” said Pavel Skala, Senior Programme Manager for Policy Programmes and Advocacy at International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine, during a press briefing at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Mr. Skala underlined that the lives of 803 drug-addicted Ukrainian citizens in 11 cities of Crimea who are undergoing replacement and maintenance therapy involving two internationally used drugs – methadone and buprenorphine – is now at risk due to treatment interruption. “Replacement therapy, as well as the drugs it uses, is prohibited in the Russian Federation. On March 20, Head of the Federal Drug Control Service of Russia Victor Ivanov made a public statement that replacement therapy programmes in Crimea would be suspended,” he said.
The expert also underlined that Crimea will run out of replacement therapy drugs in a matter of weeks and further supplies are impossible since the drugs were previously delivered with the help of the “Tytan” police unit which is no longer allowed to enter Crimea.
According to Vladimir Kurpita, Executive Director of the All-Ukrainian network of PLWH, 11,000 HIV-infected Crimeans are now facing a similar problem, as 4300 of them have to take their medications daily: “A shipment of antiretroviral drugs meant for Crimea was sent to Kherson because it could not be delivered to Crimea.”
He noted that, in the most favorable conditions, antiretroviral drugs from Russia can only be delivered to Crimea at the end of the year. “According to Russia’s Ministry of Health, no funding is provided for local purchases of ARV drugs by the new constituent entities of the Russian Federation. At the same time, the drugs that are used in Ukraine are not registered in the Russian Federation and cannot be used for treatment of patients in Crimea.”
“If HIV-infected patients do not receive treatment, it means death to them,” said Vladimir Kurpita. Nevertheless, according to Pavel Skala, “as much as possible is being done today to provide these patients with treatment in Kherson, Mykolaiv, Kyiv and other cities of Ukraine.”