Ukraine: overlapping stigmas

24 May 2012

The findings of the research have demonstrated that stigma, discrimination and violation of human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS are widely spread in Ukraine.

During the 12 months preceding the survey:

  • One in four respondents (25%) have stated that his/her HIV status in whole or in part was the reason for denied access to at least one of the social or health care services (medical care, sexual and reproductive health services, family planning services, housing problems, barriers to education). Most often, these were refusals to provide health care services (20%).
  • Most PLHIV (60%) have a job today. At least one form of discrimination faced by PLWH on the labour market was reported by 10% of employed respondents.
  • The vast majority of interviewed PLWH have a problem of internal stigma caused by their HIV status: 82% of respondents experienced various negative feelings towards themselves (58% blamed themselves, 47% felt guilty, 38% had low self-esteem, 37% felt ashamed, 9% felt they should be punished, 8% felt suicidal).
  • Violation of the voluntary principle in the VCT process: one in five respondents said s/he had been tested without his/her knowledge (12%) or forcibly (10%). Moreover,even among those who were diagnosed less than 5 years ago the said indices are 8% and 6% respectively.
  • Failure to observe the VCT procedure: 34% of respondents did not receive either pre- or post-HIV test counselling. For those who undergone VCT within the last 5 years this figure is 24%.
  • Failure to observe confidentiality and unauthorized disclosure of information about the respondent's HIV status - this was faced at least once by slightly more than one third

(37%) of interviewees. Such violations are often committed by health care workers, especially at antenatal clinics, maternity hospitals, local clinics, etc. According to respondents, health care professionals are the only social group which demonstrated discrimination (28%) rather than support (19%) after the respondents' HIV status disclosure.

As a rule, most of the above mentioned problems are faced more often by vulnerable
populations, first of all, by IDUs, FSWs and prisoners. This means that HIV-related
stigma and stigma caused by specific lifestyles of marginalized groups are deeply intertwined and intensified by each other.