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+TALK: THE UKRAINE CRISIS

The following is s transcript of the conversation between Karl Schmid and Ukrainian activist Valeria Rachinska.

To donate to 100%, click here. To listen to the IAS podcast HIV unmuted, click here.

KARL
Living with HIV in war torn Ukraine, up next. Welcome to Plus Talk on Plus Life, where we’re all about turning positive into a plus. Today, I speak with Valeria Rachinska, from the HIV services group 100% Life in Ukraine. Valeria was recently featured in the IAS, International Aids Society podcast, HIV Unmuted, in an episode focused on HIV services during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Here’s my chat with her. First and foremost, how are you holding up?

Valeria
Everything’s okay here, more or less. In these circumstances, like as okay as possible.

Karl
Well, I’m glad to hear that. So I wanna talk to you about what your organization is doing, especially when it pertains to people living with HIV and the current situation in Ukraine. Tell me about 100% Life.

Valeria
So 100% Life is a charitable organization that we created HIV positive patients, for HIV positive people as well. And before war, we were doing procurement of HIV medications, and we were changing medical laws, and we were doing medical reform, and we were supported with the psychosocial support program on HIV positive patients. We are working in prisons, with people living with HIV, with people with tuberculosis, sex workers, people who inject drugs, MSM, transgender community, in field of human rights and different kind of programs. What changed for us once the war started? We, it just added us more, more activities. So we now we are buying food for our communities. We are organizing evacuation. We supporting people with basic goods. We are trying to change a law according to the matter laws that we have right now in our country. And of course the first problems that we have and trying to solve now, it’s procurement of antiretroviral medication. Because now we have a stock outs of medication because government procured medications has to be delivered in Ukraine in March. And now it’s almost April. So, and no one expected the war from the government. So, and when the sky here closed, for us it means that no delivery for our country, and no antiretroviral treatment for our communities.

Karl
So how difficult, how difficult is it for you to be getting antiretroviral drugs to people in other parts of of Ukraine right now who rely on these drugs to stay alive?

Valeria
So it’s really, it’s problematical. Because we have a few cities where it’s bad. It’s really huge. So it’s hard if Kharkiv, Mariupol, Chernihiv, Sumy, where we have humanitarian catastrophe. And to deliver medications this place is like, it’s very hard, but it’s possible still. But the problem is we have nothing to deliver. Even more safe place, we cannot even give people medications for three months or six months to continue treatment, to make retention treatment. Because you know, empty hands. Right now PEPFAR already gave us money to procure medications for more than 200,000 patients. And thank them a lot for them and for all the American people who pay their taxes for that. So, and it’s already procured and delivered in Poland. So right now we care about logistic from Poland to Ukraine. And for like, for the most hotspot, this is still problematical how it will be delivered, not damaged, and then distributed in bombed cities through the citizens, through our patients.

Karl
What is the reaction you’re getting from people living with HIV who are in these sort of cut off parts of the country? Who are not only dealing with a war, which is terrifying in itself, but also now face the real risk of not having their medicine? What is the messaging that you’re hearing from them?

Valeria
You know, it’s two different problems. Not problems, but situations we have. Firstly, people who just internally displaced and stay in Ukraine. So they’re like are facing problems because you know, people maybe cannot give them medications more than like a two weeks, one month maximum. Because if we will give them like two months, someone will stay without medications at all. And we say the same, guys stay here, wait please. And people cannot move in like a, another direction. For example, to the village, find a place because they connected with their medications. So we are praying for the like a fast delivery to solve the situation. And the second part, the second situation, the second part of problem, is people who traveling outside of Ukraine and they stay in European Union now. Firstly, some people they don’t apply even for medical aid and don’t don’t disclose their status. Because they are afraid that it will be deportation after this. And it’s, in European Union it’s not like this. So it’s well a very, tolerant place, but our people they don’t know about it. So they’re afraid to say, but a lot of them just trying to solve the situations through their ex-social workers from Ukraine. So right now we making navigation inside Ukraine and outside Ukraine. Telling people in Bulgaria, Poland, Moldova, all across European Union, how they can reach a hospital and where they can take their medications. But the another problems we’re facing is the treatment regiments in between European Union and Ukraine, pretty different. So right now we have big optimization and almost 80% of people living with HIV from Ukraine taking TLD. So, and this is generic. TLD, it’s not like a, so European Union don’t have such a storage of these kind of medications. So for our patients, if it’s a switching of these medications from these medications to another, or TLD off brand, but it’s like a pretty expensive. And problem is that for example, if in some, I don’t know, AIDS center in Poland, it was before maybe 100 patients when 200 patients newcomers come in. So this is problematical. They don’t have literally anything to give as well like in Ukraine. So, and now we are asking for the nation, all the big pharma that can help us with still patent holder. If so maybe they can cover this gap, and just provide for Ukrainian refugees their medications.

Karl
So for, for everyday people like me sitting comfortably here in the United States, but who want to get involved and who want to help. And especially when it comes to people living with HIV. As someone, myself, living with HIV, you know I sit here and you know, I think what can I do? How can I help this situation in Ukraine? What advice do you have?

Valeria
Firstly, of course, you know, as a citizen of United States you already helped us a lot with just your taxed. Because PEPFAR, it’s American taxpayers funded program. And we are already very grateful you for you to, to all the citizens who’s doing this for us. So the second you can donate money, you can donate food, you can donate literally everything. Because right now we we have a problems in Ukraine as before we have we were a biggest producer of food in, across the region. And you know, some high places even globally. So right now we have deficit of food. So world food programs, the programs they will support us. They’re trying to procure for us. And we do need everything because Mariupol, 90% of the city destroyed. Literally. It was half million people living there before war. So people homeless, literally homeless on the street without anything. Just in their clothes. Kharkiv, 15% of their households, their buildings are destroyed. Chernihiv the same. And you know, if you go across like Russian, Russian borders, ever since if you’re close, every city close to it. Everywhere it’s humanitarian disaster. Everywhere it’s the humanitarian catastrophe. So you can donate for civilians. And if you want to make a donation, especially for people living with HIV, you can donate to our organization. We will report for every single dollar, because we are, we created for patients, and we are working for patients. You can support Ukrainian Army. If you want us being very fast, you can buy medications like any kind of of anything that can stop blood, because it’s lack of it.

Karl
Yeah. And we, and we’ll make sure that we put up the link to your organization so that people watching this can reach out directly. Stay safe, and thank you for the amazing work that you folks are doing there at 100% Life. But, but we’re sending you, I know it’s sort of, it probably doesn’t mean much to hear me say we’re sending you our love, and our prayers, and our support. And we will absolutely put some information up on the website, and put the link up on this interview on how people can donate. Especially with our brothers and sisters who are living through a war on top of living with HIV.

Valeria
Thank you so much. Thank you so much for your support. And God bless you. Your help is really priceless in any terms. So thank you.

Karl
Thank you very much. That’s gonna do it for this episode of Plus Talk. Now, if you’re interested in helping Valeria’s group, 100% Life, or you just wanna know how you can help those in Ukraine currently during the ongoing conflict, visit our website pluslifemedia.com. And be sure to follow us across social media platforms. We are @pluslifemedia. Until next time, stay safe, take care of one another. We’ll see you soon.

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