On August 31, 2018, Alliance for Public Health (Alliance) in cooperation with Ukrainian Network of People Who Use Drugs (PUD.UA) and other partners held an awareness-raising campaign “Silence Kills” in front of the Ukrainian Government building. The campaign was dedicated to the International Overdose Awareness Day, which is marked globally on August 31. Members of the PUD (people who use drugs) community, media representatives and other people had a chance to get free medical counseling in mobile clinics, receive professional advice of doctors and social workers, get information materials on overdose and receive the medicine, which can save the life of a person in case of opioid overdose with one injection.
Every year, about 200 thousand people all over the world die of drug overdose!
In the United States, more than 60 thousand deaths were caused by overdose last year! The official statistics on people who died of overdose in Ukraine is only formal and does not reflect the real situation. Usually, in Ukraine such death cases are registered as “acute heart failure”, with only about two hundred deaths every year being recorded with causes related to drug use.
Since 2001, on this day, August 31, hundreds of thousands people all over the world express their sympathy to the families and friends of overdose victims and remember those whose lives were lost to overdose. Not a single person should be persecuted or discriminated due to drug dependence or drug overdose.
Findings of a biobehavioral study conducted by Alliance among people who inject drugs (PWID) in Ukraine in 2017-2018 show that 5% of respondents experienced cases of overdose in the recent 12 months. The highest level of overdose – 14% – was observed among PWID who live in the capital of Ukraine.
Naloxone saves lives!
The research results give us strong evidence that every year over 17 thousand people who inject drugs in Ukraine experience overdose. Many of them die. Opioid overdose is associated with the highest risks. This is what 27% of respondents stated. Since 2010, Alliance has been using a well-known medicine – Naloxone – in its integrated programs to prevent deaths among opioid users.
“As a safety belt saves a person’s life in case of a traffic accident, Naloxone is the most effective method to save the life in case of an overdose. This antidote medicine should be available in such emergencies. The person who happens to be near the one with overdose –an ambulance doctor, a paramedic, a social worker, a friend, a neighbor or a passer-by – should make an injection of Naloxone. Thanks to the distribution of Naloxone and training on its use, Alliance has already saved the lives of thousands of Ukrainians,” says Andriy Klepikov, Executive Director of the Alliance for Public Health.
Over eight years, more than 10.4 thousand units of Naloxone were distributed within the prevention programs supported by Alliance. Considering the proven efficiency of this medicine, this year Alliance ensures the procurement of over 11 thousand units of Naloxone within its prevention programs. It is symbolic that in the beginning of this year, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine excluded Naloxone from the list of restricted prescription drugs, and now it is accessible to all people who need it.
In Ukraine, 226 thousand people who use drugs are already covered by prevention programs!
It is estimated that there are 347 thousand people who inject drugs in Ukraine. In 2017, Alliance covered 226 thousand people who use drugs with a minimum package of services within its integrated HIV and hepatitis C prevention programs. These programs allowed distributing 29 million disposable syringes and needles, testing 164 thousand people who use drugs with rapid tests for HIV (with 3 thousand people receiving positive test results and 2,389 PWID starting antiretroviral therapy) and providing 1.4 million consultations of social and medical workers.
Opioid substitution treatment is a real alternative to the illegal use of dangerous drugs!
Since 2005, one of the areas of Alliance activities has been the promotion of opioid substitution treatment (OST). Today, 10.7 thousand people who use drugs in Ukraine receive OST services in 190 health institutions within the current National Program to Counter HIV/AIDS. Currently, it is the biggest OST program in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This year, Alliance ensures its gradual transition to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health: 72.8% of patients are already receiving OST drugs procured within the state budget.
Alliance for Public Health has been working in the area of HIV prevention and harm reduction among people who inject drugs for over 17 years. In 2017, Alliance ensured operation of prevention programs for PWID all over the territory of Ukraine, on a regular basis providing services to 226 thousand people who use drugs. The support provided by Alliance allowed conducting 90,755 tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and hepatitis C, with 17,958 positive results detected. 110,721 PWID were screened within the efforts aimed at early tuberculosis detection, with 7,333 positive results received in the course of screening and 5,415 people seeking further diagnostics.