Monday, July 14, 2008

Training Helps Promote HIV Awareness and Tolerance in Ukraine

Training addresses discrimination against HIV-affected families, promoting tolerance and inclusion

A poster created for Mother and 
Child Centers in Ukraine: 
"HIV does not take away the future!"

Since the 1990’s, the number of orphans and children living without parental care in Ukraine has more than doubled, spurred by poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, and the nation’s growing HIV/AIDS epidemic.   Mired by these challenges, many women lack the necessary support systems to care for themselves, much less a child.  The government of Ukraine has responded with a number of measures, including the establishment of  Mother and Child Centers (MCCs), which provide temporary shelter to new mothers in crisis while staff help them find a permanent home for their families.  But while the MCCs have helped many women with support and shelter, those living with or affected by HIV have been denied access.

Knowledge: the cure for stigma

This is starting to change.  With the support of HealthRight International (formerly Doctors of the World-USA), the Ukrainian government has taken steps to make necessary social services, including housing and shelter, accessible to all women – including those living with HIV.  In February of 2008, Ukraine adopted a HealthRight-developed curriculum as the official MCC state training program.  The curriculum aims to reverse discriminatory practices against those living with HIV, by combating stigma and dispelling myths and misconceptions. 

Discrimination only intensifies the acute needs of new mothers struggling to live with HIV and care for their children.  Frequently abandoned by friends and family and burdened by a rigorous health regimen, many feel there is no alternative but to give up their newborn children to the care of institutions.  HealthRight’s MAMA+ Project, launched in 2005 and now operated by local Ukrainian organizations, provides HIV-positive women access to comprehensive medical and social services and support, including counseling, guidance, financial and food support, visits to doctors, and job training. 

Partnering with Leaders to Promote Tolerance

While the MAMA+ Project addresses a wide range of needs, broader action is still necessary to ensure the rights of HIV-positive mothers.  By working closely with the government of Ukraine to open up all health and social services to women and families affected by HIV/AIDS, HealthRight is promoting a tolerant and well-informed understanding amongst leaders, health providers, and communities. 

The adoption of HealthRight’s MCC training curriculum is just one of many steps forward that must be taken in the fight to end discriminatory practices against those living with HIV.  With the help of our partners, donors, and volunteers, HealthRight is working to advance worldwide recognition that health is a human right for all.   

* From 1990 to 2009, HealthRight International was know as Doctors of the World-USA.