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The CO “100% Life” calls for increased access to HIV vaccine for people living with HIV

As the United Nations General Assembly opens the High-Level Meeting on HIV on Tuesday 8 June, the CO “100% Life” and Coalition PLUS – an international network of community-based NGOs fighting AIDS and viral hepatitis – are urging governments of different countries to facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccines for people living with HIV. Despite being at increased risk of hospitalization, severe disease, and death from COVID-19, people living with HIV are still not among the priority targets for access to COVID-19 vaccines in Ukraine. The situation is complicated by the lack of communication on this issue and the existing stigmatization of people living with HIV.

 

Forgotten in vaccination campaigns

In Ukraine, approximately 2,78% of the population (as of June 7, 2021)  has received at least one dose of vaccine against the SARS COV2 virus, which has already caused more than 51,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. More than four months after the launch of the vaccine campaign, people living with HIV remain excluded from the priority targets for access to vaccine doses. In Ukraine, only people living with HIV who are social workers or NGO activists were able to get vaccinated using their social worker or public figure status (according to the opportunities created by the MoH for public figures at the outset of the vaccination campaign).

A British study published at the beginning of the year reveals that people living with HIV have a mortality risk two to three times higher than the general population. The authors of the study explain this by the fact that people living with HIV most often have one or more co-morbidities (diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, etc.) which may expose them to a severe form of COVID-19.

“In this context, it is more than urgent to ensure that people living with HIV and populations at risk of HIV infection have optimal sanitary conditions to avoid SARS COV2 infection that could worsen their health,” says Prof. Hakima Himmich, President of Coalition PLUS.

 

 

“I fell ill with COVID-19 in late 2020. It was a very bad experience. I have something to compare with: I have been living with HIV for over 20 years; I have overcome hepatitis and tuberculosis. As a public figure, I had the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and I want everyone to take this chance. People living with HIV, as patients with a chronic disease, should get access to protection as soon as possible,” commented Dmytro Sherembei, Head of the CO “100% Life”.

Including vulnerable populations in the pandemic response

For a more effective response to COVID-19 in Ukraine, it is essential that people living with HIV – regardless of their immune status – are included, as recommended by WHO, in the priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination when vaccine doses are available.

As a member/partner of Coalition PLUS and public figures, we call on the Government of Ukraine to:

– Include people living with HIV and vulnerable groups in the priority groups for vaccination;

– Ensure a non-discriminatory environment to facilitate access to vaccines for people living with HIV and marginalized populations;

– Strengthen communication campaigns to facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccines and tailor them to people living with HIV and vulnerable populations.

 

About CO “100% Life”: the largest patient-led organization in Ukraine, whose mission is to fight for life. “100% Life” works with and for patients, representing also the interests of people living with HIV in 25 regions of Ukraine.

About Coalition PLUS: An international union of community-based AIDS and viral hepatitis NGOs founded in 2008. Coalition PLUS works in 52 countries and with over 100 civil society organizations. Through the principle of shared governance that governs it, our union involves 16 member organizations and more than 100 partner associations in 52 countries in the North and South in decision-making. It is currently chaired by Professor Hakima Himmich.

About # HLM2021AIDS:

The High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS will be held from 8 to 10 June 2021. It will aim to review the progress made in reducing the impact of HIV since the last high-level meeting in 2016. The General Assembly also hopes to adopt a new political declaration to guide next steps in combating this disease for the next five years.

 

Press contact of the CO “100% Life”: Yuliia Chechotkina, Kyiv, y.chechotkina@network.org.ua/ +38066 95 95 567

Press contact of Coalition PLUS: Raphaël DJAMESSI, Dakar, rdjamessi@coalitionplus.org / +221 78 432 52 59

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