Ukraine: Women Living with HIV

Alla and her son in an apartment rented by a local NGO that helps IDPs with drug problems. Image by Misha Friedman. Ukraine, 2016

Tatiana, 33, with her three children. She contracted HIV from her husband who was a drug user and died from AIDS in January 2016. They had to flee the war during heavy fighting and right now she lives in Kramatorsk, supported solely by NGOs and church groups. She is unable to work as she is the only caregiver for her kids. Image by Misha Friedman. Ukraine, 2016

Olga, a social worker listens to Taras, Yana's boyfriend, talk about post-dependency challenges as he and Yana try to adjust to normal life in Mariupol. Image by Misha Friedman. Ukraine, 2016

Yana, 40 (left) with her social worker Olga. Yana has recently been released from prison and Olga helps Yana readjust to the everyday life. Image by Misha Friedman. Ukraine, 2016

Coming clean after two decades of drug use, Polina is now a social worker for women with HIV in Mariupol. Image by Misha Friedman. Ukraine, 2016

Although the world's attention has shifted from the war in eastern Ukraine to other events, daily sporadic fighting still continues in the region. But an even greater impact the war had on the lives of vulnerable people - in particular women and children living with HIV.

Over the past decade, Ukraine has become one of the countries with the fastest HIV / AIDS growth. The number of patients in eastern Ukraine, in comparison with the rest of the country, was growing three times faster. Now, over 8,000 people living with HIV are in the territory controlled by separatists, and all of them are suffering from lack of medicine and doctors. Pro-Russian separatists have banned most international medical organizations from providing assistance and gathering accurate information about the situation.

In the territory controlled by Ukraine’s government the situation is complicated by the large number of internally displaced people and thousands of demobilized soldiers returning to their families with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. Last year there was a significant increase in violence, which affected women.

In families where both or one parent is living with HIV, the situation is particularly severe, because of widespread discrimination and stigmatization of people living with HIV. Heavy fighting has ended over a year ago - and all this time displaced women and children with HIV continue to fight in search of shelter and permanent employment.

To view the full slideshow in Ukrainian, click here.