Across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening access to lifesaving medicines for people living with HIV. Lockdowns and restrictions on public transportation make it harder for many to get treatment. Many people living with HIV can’t afford to pay for a taxi to the health center. That extra hurdle can result in more deaths.
In Ukraine, the Global Fund is supporting an initiative by CO “100% LIFE,” a local HIV community network, which organizes courier services that deliver ARVs and other medicines to homes. The country’s two biggest post operators, Ukrposhta and Nova Poshta offer the services. People living with HIV in remote areas where postal services are not available are not left out either – their medication is delivered by car.
“Due to the cancellation of transport, many people were at risk of interrupting their HIV treatment, so we were forced to quickly find a solution,” said Dmytro Sherembey, head of the coordination council at CO “100% LIFE”. In 2018, 123,000 people were on antiretroviral therapy for HIV in Ukraine, which has the second-largest HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe.
“For somebody living with HIV, getting a package with ARVs during the COVID-19 pandemic is like receiving life in a box,” Sherembey said.
Through Global Fund support CO “100% LIFE” is also procuring personal protective equipment such as masks and disinfectants to protect social workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The protective equipment will be distributed across the country.
Also important during the fight against COVID-19 is reliable information. The National Health Service of Ukraine asked CO “100% LIFE” to help adapt Viber’s messaging platform to COVID-19 for use by Ukrainian public.
With Global Fund support, Viber’s chatbot, which is aimed at answering the most common COVID-19 related queries, was translated into Ukrainian language. Viber is the most popular messaging platform in Ukraine.
In addition to providing real-time updates on COVID-19 from WHO and instructions for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the pandemic, the service also offers responses for patients with HIV and TB.
Using this channel, doctors, ambulance drivers, patients and local authorities will be able to receive answers to the most urgent questions concerning COVID-19, 24 hours a day.
Curbing the spread of misinformation and providing real-time answers to users is key to containing pandemics.