July 13, 2020

All-Ukrainian competition for the media “Drug policy of Ukraine in the age of coronavirus: problems and solutions”

The International Charitable Foundation “Alliance for Public Health” invites the journalists of national and regional mass media to take part in the All-Ukrainian contest on the actual drug policy mainstreaming in Ukraine. The application can be submitted by the authors who have published (or broadcasted) their texts/stories from January 1st to November 13th, 2020.

This event aims to raise public awareness and informedness of modern methods of drug abuse prevention and treatment, in particular to emphasize the expansion of substitution maintenance therapy network, increase access to the state program on HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis for drug addicts.

Besides, the competition should help to reform Ukraine’s repressive drug policy and decriminalize drug addicts. This is important to show by the example of developed countries, where the work of the law enforcement system is focused on combating organized drug trafficking.

The competent jury will determine one winner in the categories of “Television and Radio”, “Printed Press”, “Online Press”, “Blogging”. The authors of the best materials will receive diplomas and financial incentives. The winner in each category will receive a cash prize of UAH 5,000. The competition also provides for individual awards, for example, for a series of materials or the creation of a special project on the theme of the competition.

Requirements for competitive works:

  • Materials can be prepared in any language of national minorities with a translation into Ukrainian or Russian.
  • Publications should focus on Ukrainian realities and world best practices, demonstrate the real state of affairs and offer solutions to the problems of drug addicts.
  • Preference will be given to publications that focus on expanding access to SMT and promoting the decriminalization of drug addicts with a focus on combating the organized drug trafficking by the law enforcement system, raising issues of stigma and discrimination.
  • Also, publications may include the issue of adolescent drug addiction and the rapid change of the drug scene from opioid drugs to synthetic psychotropic substances, the lack of appropriate government rehabilitation programs.
  • Texts provided by the media representatives must be original and free of plagiarism.
  • To participate in the contest, you must enter information about the posted material in the registration form at the link: https://forms.gle/QxAmGd6KSpup8vxZA

The deadline for submission of materials is November 13th, 2020 (6 p.m).

The winners of the competition will be chosen by an independent jury, which will include representatives of the ICF “Alliance for Public Health”, partner organizations, winners of past competitions.

The best materials will be published on the information resources of the ICF “Alliance for Public Health”, so when submitting an application for the competition, the authors automatically allow such publications.

All-Ukrainian competition for the media “Drug policy of Ukraine in the age of coronavirus: problems and solutions” is part of the projects “The Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response” (PITCH) and “Accelerating progress in reducing the burden of tuberculosis and HIV infection by providing universal access to timely and quality diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, expanding evidence-based prevention, diagnosis and treatment of HIV, creating viable and stable health systems” (implemented with the support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria).

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June 26, 2020

Every ninth prisoner in Ukraine serves a sentence for drug possession.

June 26 is the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 

Every 11th convicted person in Ukraine punished for the violations, which in most democratic countries are not considered to be criminal offences!

Today Ukraine, along with 90 other countries of the world, traditionally joins the global Support. Don’t Punish campaign calling for humane drug policies!

Alliance for Public Health first initiated this campaign in Ukraine back in 2013, and today we keep up the tradition to draw the attention of decision-makers, national media and all responsible citizens to the inadequate repressive state policies affecting hundreds of thousands of drug-dependent Ukrainians. As the recent expert estimates show, in the government-controlled territories of Ukraine there are about 317,000 people who inject drugs, most of whom have chronic drug dependence. Only 13,000 (4%) of those people have access to free treatment in government-supported opioid substitution treatment programs, which allows them to break the vicious criminal circle related to their daily need to get illegal drugs.

Today: every ninth prisoner in Ukraine serves a sentence for drug possession.

Every year, about 10,000 people in Ukraine are convicted for drug-related crimes (in 2019 – 9,600 people). In the recent three years, there has been a stable trend: at least 83% of people convicted for drug-related crimes serve their sentences for illegal drug possession without intent to sell (art. 309 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). In 2019, 8,000 people were convicted for such crimes, i.e. every 9th of 70.3 thousand people convicted in Ukraine. However, many people do not know that every 11th person convicted for such crimes in Ukraine (in 2019 – 6.2 thousand) serves a sentence for the acts, which are not even considered criminal offences in most civilized democratic countries (Criminal Code of Ukraine, art. 309, part 1) because the “threshold amounts” of most widely used illegal drugs approved with the Order of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine No. 188 (2000) are 200-600 times lower (!) than in the countries of the European Union, which Ukraine has been trying to become part of for so many years! Even such unfriendly and undemocratic country as Russia has in 100 times (!) less repressive “threshold mounts” for most widespread drugs.

 

Tomorrow: 30-time increase of the fines for drugs possession!

Our government decided to “decriminalize” or rather “depenalize” drug-dependent citizens starting from 1 July 2020, but in a very particular way!

In five days, Ukraine is going to enforce new legislation (Law N 2617-VIII dd. 22.11.2018), according to which illegal possession of drugs will be considered not a “criminal offence”, but a “misdemeanor”. It sounds not bad, but… With such change of terminology, the minimum fine for part 1 art. 309 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine will grow 20 times (from UAH 850 to UAH 17,000 – USD630) and the maximum fine will growing 30 times (from UAH 1,700 to UAH 51,000 – USD1900)!

Considering the lack of proper access of drug users to treatment and rehabilitation and realizing that people with chronic illness depend on illegal psychoactive substances every day, it may seem that in such a way the government decided to “earn some money”, i.e. fill the national budget with the growing proceeds from the boosted fines “imposed” on over 300,000 of drug dependent people in Ukraine. Of course, if every one of those people pays the maximum fine at least once a year, the state can earn about 15 billion UAH!  However, both experts and family members of drug users understand that this is not how it works. Those people have long ago taken all the money from their homes to pay drug dealers and to bribe corrupted police officers. Indeed, today “drug corruption” is one of the most developed illicit enrichment schemes for numerous organized groups of “turncoats”, who recently have been regularly exposed by the State Bureau of Investigations, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Security Service of Ukraine and the National Police. On the one hand, corrupted law enforcers traditionally “protect” organized drug business, on the other hand – they set up ordinary drug users using their own criminal schemes to extort money from them or their relatives for avoiding criminal responsibility. What will such “characters” do after there is a 30-time increase in the official “fines”?! Unfortunately, that is a rhetorical question! It is indirectly confirmed by the stable annual decrease in the number of convicted drug dealers with an increase in the number of drug users convicted for drug possession (see the diagram above).

Meanwhile, despite all the statements of the progressive Minister of Justice, Ukrainian prisons will continue to serve as the “training center” of organized crime and an incubator of infectious diseases because the usual prisoners are ordinary drug-dependent people, who have not been given any other options by the state apart from punishment!

Decriminalization of drug users is inevitable… in a democratic state!

Last week, there was a meeting of the new members of the Inter-ministerial Working Group to Revise Legislation on Narcotic Drugs under the Ministry of Health of Ukraine. One of the unanimous resolutions was the decision to revise the “threshold amounts of drugs” (Order of the Ministry of Health N 188/2000), which is now the key reason of the inadequately high level of artificial criminalization of drug users in Ukraine. However, we need to keep in mind that in the past such intentions were declared and even started to be implemented as draft regulations on numerous occasions. But without the decision-makers clearly understanding the existing situation and without the political will of high-level officials, Ukraine will not break this “vicious circle” and the number of issues related to drug use will only be growing.

The global Support. Don’t Punish campaign is called to draw public attention to such challenges and demonstrate the serious harms caused by the senseless “War on Drugs. The campaign calls to implement drug policies, which are based on human rights, protect health and reduce the risks related to drug use.                  

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June 04, 2020

Alliance delivered a large consignment of personal protection equipment to penal institutions

In the challenging context of COVID-19 pandemic, Alliance for Public Health together with its partners continues efficiently responding to the needs of the vulnerable populations. In particular, urgent procurement was organized to provide all the implementing partners facing the highest risks as they continue to provide services to the key populations with the basic personal protection equipment (PPE). At the request of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine, such equipment was provided to the staff members of penal institutions and to the inmates who continue receiving opioid substitution treatment and hepatitis C therapy during the pandemic. Despite the shortage of PPE in the country, the need to comply with all the procurement procedures while many engaged institutions and organizations work remotely, we were able to respond to this vital request of our partners quickly and efficiently!

Currently, institutions of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine have been provided with the following PPE:

– Alcohol wipes (70%, 30Х65 mm) – 500 thousand;

– Non-sterile medical nitrile gloves (IGAR 7-8) – 5.6 thousand;

– Antibacterial fluid for hands disinfection (100, 150 and 500 ml – 578 bottles, 75 liters in total)

– EconormDEZ Classic disinfectant (1,000 ml) – 10 bottles;

– Disposable protective face masks – 51 thousand.

The total cost of the PPE delivered is UAH 981,000.

In 2019, Alliance with support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other international partners contributed to the launch of the first pilot OST site in the penitentiary system of Ukraine. Currently, about 20 inmates receive OST services at this site. Besides, Alliance has been supporting a hepatitis C treatment program in penal institutions since 2018. In 2017, Alliance with the Global Fund support initiated comprehensive activities aimed at hepatitis C screening, diagnostics and treatment in the health facilities of the State Penitentiary Service. In 2020, Alliance provides hepatitis C diagnostics and treatment services to 350 inmates and other detainees with HIV/HCV co-infection. In addition, 250 people who receive treatment courses provided by the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine, are provided with hepatitis C diagnostic services before treatment initiation and 12 weeks after treatment completion to assess the efficiency of antiviral treatment.

Besides, in the nearest future Alliance will provide the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine with 3,000 rapid tests for hepatitis C screening among prison staff and inmates. The Alliance team highly appreciates its longstanding partnership with the Health Center of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine and would like to extend its gratitude to its representatives for their constructive approach and constant support.

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May 14, 2020

Practical Recommendations to reshape a sustainable response to HIV/TB/HCV in the EECA countries within Covid-19 context

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems around the world have to become more robust, flexible, and results-oriented.

Changes have been made in the approach that some health systems have taken to the delivery of a range of services, including interventions for the management of HIV and opioid dependence as well as the treatment of tuberculosis (TB) and viral hepatitis C (HCV) among key population groups. Many of these changes have been welcomed by communities, with a window of opportunity to revisit and refresh issues of drug use regulations, policing, amnesty for people in prisons and other closed settings.

In early May 2020, a LIVE discussion was held on Youtube (in English) and simultaneously on Facebook (in Russian) by the Sustainability of Services (SoS) Project of the Alliance for Public Health (APH) funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, that brought together experts to consider opportunities to improve the sustainability of HIV programmes for key populations in 14 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) as a result of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presenters included Volodymyr Kurpita, a regional expert on public health and HIV/AIDS based in Ukraine; Fifa Rahman, a specialist in International Trade/Intellectual Property Law and a UNITAID Board Member for NGOs; Anton Basenko, a regional expert on drug policy, community, gender and human rights with the Alliance for Public Health; and Niamh Eastwood, the Executive Director of Release, the British centre of expertise on drugs and drug law; the session was moderated by Andriy Klepikov, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Public Health and a member of the Glob- al Fund Board for the Developing Countries NGO Delegation.

The online event considered which developments should be retained and promoted as countries pass through the peak of the epidemic and grow accustomed to the presence of the virus at a more manageable level. Specifically, how recent actions at global and national levels in response to COVID-19 have provided opportunities to increase access to medicines and services, the role of human rights within health systems, and how to build upon the newly emerging good practices.

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April 28, 2020

COVID19 lessons: what can make the HIV programs in the EECA countries more sustainable? (LIVE discussion)

On May 5, 2020, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST (UTC+3), a special LIVE discussion will be held on opportunities to improve the sustainability of national HIV programs that have emerged in connection with COVID-19.

Obviously, some of the changes brought forth by COVID-19 (simplification of patent regulations, modification of client program management and the use of online formats, simplification of drug users policing, amnesty for drug users in some countries) should continue after COVID-19, furthermore, they will significantly increase the sustainability of HIV programs in the future.

Organizers: Alliance for Public Health and #SoS_project team.

“We invited international experts and created the agenda that would be of interest to the coordinators and leaders of civil society health organizations, as well as the public sector”, the organizers said.

The LIVE discussion will present international experience, simple and understandable recommendations that will help countries adapt to the situation and increase the sustainability of HIV programs.

Focus: on the new opportunities to boost sustainability, not on reporting the problems!

Broadcast speakers:

  1. Fifa Rahman (Malaysia/UK), LLB(Hons), MHL (Health Law) (Sydney), PhD Candidate, International Trade/Intellectual Property Law, University of Leeds, Board Member for NGOs, Unitaid

Topic: Simplification of access to medicines and diagnostics

  1. Anton Basenko (Ukraine), expert on drug policy, community, gender and human rights, Alliance for Public Health

Topic: Simplification of services provision models for vulnerable groups in the region – which of the improved practices should be maintained after COVID-19

  1. Niamh Eastwood (UK), Executive Director of the Release – the British center of expertise on drugs and drugs law

Topic: Decriminalization of drug use for personal purposes and amnesty for the convicts

  1. Volodymyr Kurpita (Ukraine), expert on public health and HIV/AIDS

Topic: Changes to be made in the healthcare system: COVID19 lessons for HIV sustainability

Moderator: Andriy Klepikov, Executive Director of the Alliance for Public Health, Global Fund To Fight AIDS, TB & Malaria Member of the Board form the Developing Countries NGO Delegation.

Speakers will tell in detail what can be simplified, optimized, improved in the existing healthcare systems in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic impact, so that countries become more efficient and better prepared for similar challenges in the future.


In the framework of the special broadcast, the experts will present their arguments for the sustainability of HIV programs based on the COVID-19 lessons in terms of such aspects, as:

  1. Access to HIV medicines and diagnostics,
  2. HIV services for key populations,
  3. Drug policy,
  4. Strengthening of the national health systems.

The broadcast will be in English with simultaneous interpretation into Russian.

You can watch live discussion on the website below or through social media: Facebook (ru) and Youtube (eng).

 

Watch online broadcast in ENG

Start: On May 5, 2020, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST (UTC+3)

 

Watch online broadcast in Russian  https://bit.ly/2Yxazk3 (or below)

Start: On May 5, 2020, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST (UTC+3)

#COVID19 vs #HIV: присоединяйтесь к эфиру 5 мая в 11:00!Мы пригласили международных экспертов и создали программу,…

Опубліковано Альянс громадського здоров'я Alliance for Public Health Вівторок, 28 квітня 2020 р.

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April 24, 2020

How to Ensure Sustainable Work of Human Rights Protection Projects in new COVID-19 Reality

Lessons from REAct implementing countries within SoS_project.

As for now, the countries where we currently operate are not the ones most severely affected by COVID-19. However, states have already started to apply prevention measures in different ways: from state of emergency in Georgia, night curfew in Kyrgyzstan to the absence of any restrictions in Tajikistan so far.

СCovid-19 statistics by country as for 22/04/2020 (WHO)

Country Confirmed cases New cases Deaths
Georgia 408 9 4
Kyrgyzstan 590 22 7
Moldova 2548 76 70
Tajikistan 0 0 0

Human rights is the second (after public health care) issue we have to keep an eye on, when preparing for potential pandemic crisis, as they are most likely to be sacrificed by the states trying to stay in control over the situation. This article aims to share lessons and ideas, gained by REAct communities and NGOs to ensure sustainable and effective work of the human rights organizations during lockdown.


1. Care about REActors’, outreach-, social-workers’ safety first

  • inform your team members about the COVID-19 prevention measures
  • provide REActors with basic protection materials (masks, gloves, antiseptics)
  • reorganize the way your NGO provides services (remote, online work, permanent shift groups, home delivery)
  • disinfect regularly the office and the distribution sites.

Human rights protection services should not be stopped due to the lockdown. Legal and psychological support, as well as health care, prevention and harm reduction services must meet people “where they are”. Currently outreach workers are at the same level of risk as primary health care employees, as they have to keep contacting clients and meeting them outside. Their safety is our number one priority.

In Tajikistan, there are no officially registered COVID-19 cases yet and the government did not impose any quarantine restrictions. Anyway, NGOs and service organizations take all the necessary measures to prevent virus spreading: interviews with victims of HR violations are held remotely and there is mandatory moping and sanitization of the meeting room after each session.

In Georgia service (as well as human rights protection) organizations continue working to ensure sustainable assistance for the clients. It was decided to optimize working hours and divide employees into several permanent shift groups. So that, in case one person gets infected, only one group (this person was working in) will go on quarantine, but other groups will continue working.


2. Ensure sustainable channels of communication to reach clients out and to be reached by them, in case their rights are violated

  • establish 24h crisis hotline
  • disseminate business cards with emergency phone numbers
  • collaborate with governmental COVID-19 hotline or crisis center
  • look for the new ways of communication (social networks, for example)

As clients are locked in their homes we barely can know what is happening to them, moreover we barely will find out if something bad does happen. Now it is time to build new channels of communication to replace face-to-face talk. NGOs can create an emergency 24h hotline, so clients will be able to inform us if their rights are violated or any help is needed.

In Moldova, our partners have contacted the Non-Governmental COVID-19 Crisis Hotline and have asked to inform them immediately if there is an appeal from key groups or PLHIV. So if this happens, the comprehensive, two-sided response can be provided to the victim (key group representative).

Georgia due to lockdown started to search for KPs’ human rights violations on Facebook. REActors monitor Facebook groups, where sex workers and drug users, LGBTQs communicate, share information and seek help, when their rights are violated. Additionally, REActors track hate speech posts and contact the victim in direct to provide psychological support and legal protection if needed.

For the next deliveries of ARV treatment to clients’ homes, in several countries it is planned to disseminate brochures to inform beneficiaries about their rights during COVID-19 lockdown, as well as to present emergency phone number cards. This small piece of paper can bring the “I-am-in-safety” feeling and serve as a life-jacket stored under the seat, as emergency situations, new lockdown rules cause anxiety, fear and uncertainty, especially for those who are the most vulnerable and unprotected.


3. Inform clients about COVID-19 prevention measures and quarantining restrictions

  • keep clients updated
  • disseminate brochures with accurate information written the language that is understood by beneficiaries

Our partners together with UNODC Moldova distributed COVID-19 prevention brochures amount prisoners and people in detention. In Georgia the same kind of brochures were disseminated amount drug users. Five international recommendations brochures were translated into Georgian for common and overall use by NGOs.

  

4. Inform clients about their rights and potential HR violations in COVID-19 environment

5. Monitor the situation, collect and share information

  • Hold regular and frequent online-meetings/calls with your community members, partners to receive and share information
  • Call/message your clients to find out about their current livelihood, health, conditions
  • Exchange information and notify other civil society stakeholders.

In Kyrgyzstan, the national REAct coordinator holds everyday phone status update calls with 8 REActors, who stay at home due to lockdown and do not have access to the Internet. These REActors keep on consulting beneficiaries on human rights by phone, as well as continue reporting by phone about the number of cases.

Due to the recent information about increasing domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan4, national coordinator works on building sustainable connections with domestic violence hotlines and with other organizations, which work generally on women human rights protection not focusing on HIV-positive, sex workers or female drug users, to be informed if KP women contact them about domestic violence..

 

By Victoria Kalyniuk, Regional REAct Coordinator

 

  1. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/COVID19Guidance.aspx
  2. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/19/human-rights-dimensions-covid-19-response
  3. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/COVID19Guidance.aspx
  4. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/08/women-risk-domestic-violence-during-kyrgyzstans-lockdown
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April 24, 2020

Alliance for Public Health conducted two online interactive trainings on “Motivational Counseling and Social Support (Case Management)” on April, 14-15 and 22-23, 2020.

40 participants from 22 cities of Ukraine participated in a two-day training on the basics of motivational counseling and social support for project clients with HIV rapid test positive result and clients, who are not covered by medical care.

Participants learned about the latest normative documents in the field of HIV prevention and the benefits of early medical treatment and treatment initiation. Thanks to the capabilities of modern technology, the participants were able not only to get acquainted with presentations, but also to share their practical experience, discuss the difficulties they encountered while working, and get answers to complex questions from experienced trainers-consultants and specialists of the Program Department of Alliance.

As a part of group work, participants discussed existing barriers of taking medical care for HIV-positive clients from vulnerable groups as well as specifics of support for such clients. Moreover, the participants clearly defined the goals and objectives of case management and the principles of providing client work in order to achieve the goals of the cascade. Through interactive voting, participants discussed ways to get HIV infected and myths related to the issue.

Particular attention was paid to the social support of clients in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants received pieces of advice on the peculiarities of remote client work as well as on high quality and effective support and telephone counseling. As a result of the survey, the most active participants were identified and received memorable prizes from the Alliance.

Despite the fact that many participants were initially apprehensive about the idea of online training, the overwhelming majority expressed positive evaluations of this format. “Being able to gain new knowledge, even in quarantine, inspires and adds strength and confidence for further work,” is one of the conclusions the participants made during the training.

Even in the terms of quarantine and movement restrictions, Alliance for Public Health does not stop providing technical assistance and capacity building for supported projects and goes on to provide online trainings for NGO staff.

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April 16, 2020

Alliance procures Personal Protective Equipment for its partner NGOs!

To ensure uninterrupted and quality operation of the HIV/HCV/TB/OST projects in the regions of Ukraine during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alliance for Public Health initiates unscheduled deliveries of an extended range of personal protective equipment (PPE), which is vital in the current circumstances. In the course of this and next week, 97 partner civil society organizations and healthcare institutions in all government-controlled regions of Ukraine (125 sites) are going to receive Safe Boxes with:

– 750 liters of antibacterial and disinfecting substances
– 46,300 three-layer protective face masks
– 22,500 medical nitrile gloves (standard and reinforced)

The total of about 70 thousand PPE items have been urgently procured with support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria amounting almost one million hryvnias. It is worth noting that many of the PPEs procured will be used in the prevention projects, currently supported from the state budget of Ukraine through the Public Health Center of Ukraine.

Be safe! Help others! And we will take care of you!

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