Ukraine TB outbreak has potential to be full-blown epidemic

Ukraine is going through a tuberculosis outbreak, and one organization believes it could have been avoided.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation Ukraine said at a recent press conference that the outbreak is due to the failure of state procurements to obtain essential medications. The foundation’s activists are pushing for immediate measures to be taken to address the crisis, including the distribution of medical supplies to the country.

“In Ukraine, medications are procured annually by the Ministry of Health,” AIDS Healthcare Foundation Ukraine Head Serhiy Fedorov said. “The inability of the previous procurement team at the Ministry to ensure the supply of life-saving medicine for six months has had a devastating impact on our country’s citizens. Almost 50,000 people will need these drugs early next year — and even the most inexpensive medications for treatment of regular tuberculosis are unavailable in the country. With almost 9,500 patients with drug resistant TB and 8,290 people living with HIV and TB, there is an undeniable need for immediate access to these essential medications.”

That said, the Ministry has made several attempts to get the medications since July and all but Isoniazid, a first-line treatment drug, have been procured. Still, the TB drugs have not yet been delivered to the healthcare facilities, and this has forced the Global Fund to Fight AIDS TB and Malaria to provide a short-term urgent supply, but even that amount only covers part of the total needed.

“There are no drugs at the [TB] facility,” Liliya from Kirovohrad, who has been diagnosed with pulmonary MDR TB, said. “I am offered either to stay at the hospital with no treatment whatsoever or to buy the drugs on my own. Actually, the only available treatment we have is a bed at in-patient care.”

Without adequate medical treatment, TB has the potential to wind up as a full-blown epidemic.

“Every individual using public transport or staying in the places with high concentration of people (shops, offices, movie theaters, malls) faces the risk of contracting TB,” AIDS Healthcare Foundation Ukraine Medical Coordinator Dr. Yaroslava Lopatina said.

Each year, nearly 30,000 people in Ukraine are diagnosed with tuberculosis, with the disease killing more than 6,000 individuals.

After the press conference, AHF Europe had a face-to-face meeting with Alexander Kvitashvili, the newly-appointed Minister of Health of Ukraine, where Kvitashvili confirmed that obtaining TB medications is at the top of his agenda.

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