From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Ukraine: Church and State Cooperation Vital in HIV/AIDS

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Mon, 26 Apr 2004 09:21:49 -0500

Ukraine: Church and State Cooperation Vital in HIV/AIDS Protection, Care
Providing Free Anti-retroviral Drugs a Major Challenge

ODESSA, Ukraine/GENEVA, 23 April 2004 (LWI) * "Are we compassionate enough,
do we give adequate care, and are we as churches prepared for conversion with
regard to the HIV/AIDS pandemic?" Dr Christine Sadia, HIV/AIDS consultant at
the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), presented these questions to
participants in a regional conference for LWF European church leaders. 

Around 40 representatives from European LWF member churches, women and youth
leaders, as well as staff members from regional and international
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are taking part in the April 20*25
HIV/AIDS consultation organized by the LWF in cooperation with the German
Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Ukraine (DELKU) in Odessa.

At the May 2002 Pan-African Lutheran Church Leaders Consultation in Nairobi,
Kenya, African member churches committed themselves to break the silence
regarding the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and to openly discuss the issue of stigma
and discrimination. On the basis of the LWF HIV/AIDS action plan launched at
that meeting, the Federation's member churches worldwide were now being urged
to draw up practical action plans for their respective regions in order to
enhance their response to the pandemic, Sadia said.

During a reception organized by the Mayor of Odessa, Ruslan Borissovitch
Bodelan, April 22, Sadia pointed out that Odessa had been chosen as the
conference's location because the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic there was
particularly visible and critical. She expressed gratitude to the
authorities' openness with regard to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the good
cooperation that preceded the meeting. The fight against the HIV/AIDS
pandemic is a very difficult task, she said, but noted that joint measures
and projects in collaboration with the Lutheran church are an important
contribution to the process.

Sadia noted that she comes from Africa, a continent where HIV/AIDS is
experienced firsthand as a stark reality. In her country, Kenya, 700 people
die daily as a consequence of HIV/AIDS, she said. Three out of every eight
people are infected with the HIV virus, and the infection rate among the
entire population stands at 14 percent.

DELKU Bishop Dr Edmund Ratz urged closer cooperation between the city, state
and church authorities in combating HIV/AIDS, noting that the Ukrainian
Lutheran church was committed to reducing the impact of the pandemic. DELKU,
he noted, had already asked the city authorities more than a year ago to
transfer ownership of the old German hospital that had been nationalized
during the Stalin era. The church plans to use the health institution for
social work projects, and care for people affected by HIV/AIDS. 

Greeting the consultation's participants, Valeri Fyodorovitch Garyatschuk,
representing the city's committee for health affairs, explained that the
scale of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Ukraine presented a large-scale problem.
The fact that the European church leaders' conference was taking place in
Odessa was a sign of hope for Ukraine, he said. He noted that his office
would study the recommendations of the LWF consultation in great depth. 

Dr Vitaliy Novosvitny, head of the Odessa AIDS Center, emphasized that
HIV/AIDS knows no borders. The first official case of HIV in the context of
the former Soviet Union had been identified in Odessa in 1987, and
approximately 250,000 inhabitants of the Ukraine - 1 percent of the
population aged 15 to 49 years - had since become infected with the virus.
There were 62,000 people living with HIV/AIDS officially registered in the

According to Novosvitny, providing free anti-retrovirals to those affected by
the disease remains a major challenge. Out of an estimated 4,000 people
living with HIV/AIDS eligible for anti-retroviral treatment in the Ukraine,
only some 200 were currently receiving such medication, according to data
from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GF-ATM). 

The GF-ATM has provided financial support for the LWF regional meetings. In
January 2003 the LWF signed an agreement with the GF-ATM to promote the
Federation's campaign against HIV/AIDS. This was the first time that the
global fund had signed a contract with an NGO since its founding in 2001.
(677 words)

[The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now has 136 member
churches in 76 countries representing 62.3 million of the almost 66 million
Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas
of common interest such as ecumenical and inter-faith relations, theology,
humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects
of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the LWF's information service. Unless
specifically noted, material presented does not represent positions or
opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where the dateline of an article
contains the notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with

*    *	   *

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