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MSF Launches Mass Media Campaign to Reduce Stigma, Discrimination Associated with HIV/AIDS
April 27, 2001
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has launched a mass media campaign in Ukraine aimed at tackling the stigmatization and discrimination directed at the large number of people living with HIV/AIDS.
In 1995, there were 250 cases of HIV/AIDS in Ukraine. Today, there are more than 250,000 cases of the disease, more than in any other Commonwealth of Independent States country. The epidemic has spread from high-risk groups to the general population. Yet discrimination and stigmatization towards people living with HIV/AIDS are still firmly embedded in public attitudes and within the medical profession.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, financial resources decreased, and the healthcare system deteriorated. Medical information, including facts pertaining to the transmission, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, was limited. MSF surveys in Ukraine have shown that this gap in knowledge resulted in the spread of general misinformation, which contributed to the stigmatization of people living with the disease. This stigmatization has lead to outright discrimination; victims have been rejected by their friends and families, fired from their jobs, even evicted from their homes.
MSF developed a mass media campaign based on research in the area. Through television and radio commercials, distribution of leaflets and posters, advertisements and a website, the campaign plans to educate the public reduce misconceptions and create more tolerance towards people with HIV/AIDS.
By using personal stories and experiences of people who have been in contact with people living with HIV/AIDS, the MSF campaign also aims to help people deal with disease's emotional impact. The campaign began on March 20 in Kiev and may be extended to other regions later.
MSF has been in Ukraine developing and implementing HIV/AIDS projects in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, universities and NGOs since 1999.
In addition to the media campaign, MSF supports four regional information centers, which raise awareness of HIV/AIDS by providing information for medical workers, non-governmental organizations, high-risk groups, and the general public. MSF is also running a harm-reduction program, which aims to reduce to transmission of the disease by enabling drug users to use clean needles/syringes and condoms. In addition, MSF is implementing an AIDS-care program in southern Ukraine for the prevention of mother to child transmission.
MSF's Access to Essential Medicines Campaigns supports advocacy efforts related to HIV/AIDS care and support. MSF is campaigning to ensure that people with the virus have access to those medications most effective in treating the disease.