The level of discrimination against people living with HIV has almost fallen fourfold in ten years
From 2010 to 2020, the percentage of HIV-positive Ukrainians facing discrimination like gossips and threats initiated by the social environment fell from 30% to 8% and from 18% to 5%, respectively. There were the conclusions of the fourth wave of the survey “People Living with HIV Stigma Index 2.0 in Ukraine (2020)”. Previous studies were conducted in 2010, 2013, and 2016.
The rate of denial of health care to people living with HIV fell to 4%, from 22% in 2010. The level of unauthorized disclosure of HIV status by health professionals has also decreased fivefold – 6% of patients reported such an experience in 2020.
However, the level of self-stigma and self-discrimination among HIV patients remains the main concern. Despite significant global advances regarding HIV treatment, affordable treatment, prevention medicines, and available services, people with HIV continue to feel ashamed and guilty about their HIV status and may refuse health care and close relationships.
“More than half of people with HIV perceive the burden of stigma and discrimination against themselves,” said Olga Petrash, Deputy Director of the USAID HealthLink Project. “At the same time, 68% of HIV-positive patients delay starting treatment primarily because of fear of condemnation and ill-treatment, including by doctors. Lack of awareness about HIV and the benefits of initiating treatment early influence such behavior. These results can already be used to improve training and education programs for health and social workers.”
According to the survey, only half of the people with HIV know about laws that can protect their rights.
Despite the gradual tolerance to HIV in Ukrainian society, the lack of awareness among the general population, and even the healthcare community, provokes new cases of discrimination against people living with HIV.
In 2020, every fifth of HIV-positive patients faced discrimination from healthcare staff. One in five people with HIV also experienced unauthorized disclosure during a year.
Representatives of key communities are most vulnerable to condemnation and discrimination: almost every fourth of commercial sex workers and every fifth of men who have sex with men have experimented with discrimination because of their HIV-positive status.
In 2021, raising awareness both among people living with HIV and their surroundings is a top priority. HIV is a chronic and treatable disease that allows you to control your health.
According to estimates, 251,168 people are living with HIV in Ukraine. One in three HIV-positive people still does not know his/her HIV status, or remains out of health care and therefore does not receive treatment (antiretroviral therapy). Therapy allows people with HIV to live a full life: to have families and be socially active.
The study “People Living with HIV Stigma Index 2.0 in Ukraine (2020)” was conducted by the NGO “100% Life” within the USAID HealthLink Project, receiving the methodological support of the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP +). It was performed by the “Socioconsulting” analytical center. The sample was 2,200 respondents.