On 1 December 2017, marking the World AIDS Day, for the first time in Ukraine patrol police officers of the capital city pinned the symbolic red ribbons on their uniform, when starting their shift on duty, and had voluntary anonymous testing for HIV and hepatitis C in specially equipped mobile clinics.

Co-organizers of the campaign were the Kyiv City Patrol Police Department and the Alliance for Public Health (hereinafter – Alliance), with involvement of Convictus Ukraine and Club Eney NGOs.

This is the first campaign to raise the awareness of patrol police officers on HIV, viral hepatitis and other socially dangerous diseases as in their routine work they often face high risks of such infections.

“Our task is to ensure the public security! Public security starts with the personal safety of the patrol police officer, who faces serious risks, in particular related to socially dangerous diseases, such as tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, and HIV, when performing his everyday duties in the street. Today, by our personal example, we demonstrate to our fellow citizens the importance of prevention and personal protection, which starts with a simple and painless procedure rapid tests for HIV and hepatitis C. We care about the health and safety of the patrol policemen, who take care of the public security and public health!” underlined in his speech at the press briefing Oleksiy Biloshytskyi, First Deputy Head of the Patrol Police Department.

Today a media campaign “HIV is dangerous as long as you don’t know about it!” has been launched in Ukraine. It is very symbolic that the officers of Kyiv patrol police, first among the Ukrainian law enforcers, today wear the traditional red ribbons and are tested for HIV with rapid tests. Every tenth of the 15 thousand new HIV cases registered this year was registered in Kyiv. Rapid test for HIV or hepatitis C is a rapid and effective procedure, which so far has not become routine for our people. However, only a test may show presence of the virus in a human body, and timely initiation of the treatment allows HIV-infected people to live long and happy lives. Modern drugs give an opportunity for people with hepatitis C to cure their disease just in 3 months. Alliance welcomes the readiness of the Patrol Police administration to hold such campaigns and hopes for further productive cooperation!” said Andriy Klepikov, Executive Director of the Alliance for Public Health.

“The success in implementation of the National Program to Counter HIV/AIDS depends of the effective cooperation among the law enforcement agencies, health and social services, and civil society organizations. Such cooperation may be established only as partnership aimed at improving the conditions to provide people vulnerable to HIV and other infections vital prevention, treatment and support services. UNODC, UNAIDS and other UN agencies contribute to building such partnership. Law enforcement agencies play a vital role in protecting and enhancing public health. Knowing your status, drawing the attention of people who may be infected to ensure their timely access to treatment those are our vital issues!” summed up Rostyslav Havrylov, Coordinator of the UNODC Office in Ukraine.

During the campaign, each patrol team received special notebooks and pads to fill in working documents, which, at the same time, contain useful information about governmental and non-governmental services to prevent HIV and other socially dangerous diseases. Working with the members of key populations, such as people who inject drugs and sex workers, Alliance registered numerous cases of prejudiced attitude to them from the side of police and various problems, which often were based on the lack of accurate information and contacts. In the recent year, Alliance representatives held numerous workshops for the staff of the National Police to tell about the human rights and interests of the key populations and present current regulations in this area. Now every team of the patrol police will have telephone numbers of the hotlines on HIV, tuberculosis and substitution treatment, contact details of civil society organizations and social services working with vulnerable populations. It should make the work of patrol police officers easier and contribute to faster resolution of problematic situations, which may arise when performing their duties.

The campaign supports the key messages of the global UNAIDS campaign dedicated to the World AIDS Day, My Health, My Right (#myrighttohealth)

Alliance for Public Health is a leading Ukrainian civil society organization, co-implementer of the National Targeted Social Program to Counter HIV/AIDS and recipient of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Although the main activities of the Alliance are aimed at HIV prevention in the key populations, it also pays considerable attention to working with the general population as well as with defense and law enforcement agencies the Ministry of Defense and the National Guard as well as the National Police of Ukraine. Promotion of HIV testing is one of the important tasks of Alliance as according to the official statistics blood-to-blood transmission of HIV, which was typical for Ukraine in the first decade of the epidemic, is no longer prevailing according to the recent statistic data, over 70% of people get infected through sexual contacts. In 2017, within the programs implemented by Alliance 237 thousand people were tested for HIV in all regions of Ukraine, with 7.8 thousand (3.3%) positive test results! The biggest share of HIV positive results were detected in Kyiv city as well as Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk and Odesa regions.