An unrecognised, but potentially explosive epidemic with far reaching implications is fast developing in the shadow of the lingering Ukrainian conflict. Today, approximately 150,000 people in Ukraine are unaware of their HIV+ status. Many of these are sex workers and drug users, marginalised groups who stand little chance in a country racked by conflict.
The mid-90s saw an explosion of intravenous drug use in the Ukraine - the driving force behind an HIV epidemic that lasted until 2008. With the consistent efforts of NGOs, International organisations and domestic policy change the rate of transmission began to reverse between the years 2009-2013. The country is now attempting to recover from its recent and unresolved conflict with Russia in Crimea and separatist groups in The Donbas, but with over 1 million internally displaced people, the progress made in reversing the spread of HIV is fast becoming undone.
The country is tentatively rebuilding its infrastructure under the fragile protection of the MINSK II Protocol ceasefire agreed in February 2015. However, like with all conflicts, its full effect on the population remains to be seen, but already the stress of war has fuelled an increase in HIV prevalence and is forcing the country into a second epidemic. The returning soldiers and refugees still disembarking at train stations across the country, bear the psychological and physical traumas that will remain a legacy of this conflict for generations to come.Text: Nils Adler / Photo: Pascal Vossen