Ukraine has the second highest HIV prevalence in Europe. Official figures state that in 2016 240,000 people in Ukraine were living with HIV – a figure that has doubled since 2010. Although the real figure is believed to be much higher.
Historically HIV has been mainly restricted to the drug injecting communities. Recently, however, there has been an alarming development; now hetrosexual sex has taken over as the main route for transmission of the virus. I visited Kyiv and Odessa for UNAIDS accompanying local N.G.Os including "Way Home" and "Faith, Hope Love" who are working with vulnerable communities exposed to HIV. Due to its position as a port on the Black Sea, Odessa is one of the epicentres of HIV in Ukraine.
This photo is of 46 year old Alexander an injecting drug user and exconvict. "I came from a criminal family – my father was a criminal, my mother was a pick pocket– as you can imagine, as my parents were always away from home, I grew up on the street – of course that’s where I find out about drugs and tried them for the first time". Mainly injects opiates. First went ot prison aged 14. Sent to prison 6 times for a total of 28 years three times for robbery and assault the other three times for posession of drugs. If he had life again would never get involved in drugs. "That person who offers you drugs for the first time - this person is not your friend, this person you should see as your enemy because if someone offers you drugs that person is responsible for your life - they are going to destroy your life". Odessa, Ukraine