Fighting hepatitis C in Ukraine
Millions of people in Ukraine continue to suffer silently through the pain of hepatitis C. Around five percent of the population live with the disease, many of whom remain untreated due to a historical lack of access to affordable treatment and diagnosis.
In Ukraine, MSF began offering hepatitis C treatment in people who are co-infected with HIV in the Mykolaiv region, in the south of the country, in 2017. People who formerly injected drugs or are on opioid substitution therapy and healthcare workers infected with hepatitis C also receive treatment.
Ukrainian photographer Aleksandr Glyadyelov spent several weeks in Mykolaiv with people living with hepatitis C, exploring their stories and the daily burden, suffering and hope of those affected by the disease.
Ihor Skalko, 53, is a lawyer living in Ukraine. He was diagnosed with hepatitis C 11 years ago. “I do not know when I got infected with hepatitis C. I got tested out of curiosity. After testing positive in 2007, I immediately tried to forget about it. Because I knew that there was no access to treatment in Ukraine.”
Kostiantyn Dymynchuk, 47, graduated from college and was trained as a metal worker and an operator of multiple types of equipment. However, his life took a different path. He started using drugs and then went to prison. Here, together with his colleague, he explains to people who were recently released from prison the optimal ways are to be admitted into a rehabilitation center.
Andrii Konovalov found out that he was HIV-positive when he was 24. For the next 10 years Andrii was ready to die at any moment. A meeting with an MSF social worker in 1999 radically changed his attitude towards his life. Back then, MSF was running a medical and social support programme for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Mykolaiv region.
Andrii received treatment for hepatitis C in a free treatment programme in 2015. However, the treatment was very difficult because of the side-effects. Now he uses his experience of battling the disease to help other patients in the MSF programme, where he has been working as a peer educator since October 2017.
“The MSF programme uses new drugs which do not have such severe side-effects. Patients can tolerate this treatment much better. But they still need support and I do my best as a peer educator to provide it. I can tell that people trust me and I see how important it is to support a person during the tough times in life,” Andrii says.
“When the first free programmes of hepatitis C started, it was very difficult to get selected. What scared people away was the difficulty of the treatment with all its terrible side-effects. Diagnostics of hepatitis C are another issue as there are no rapid tests available. Diagnostics are very expensive, not everyone can afford them,” says Olena.
Viktoriya Kuznetsova, 45, has been a social worker for ‘Time of Life' (a charitable organisation which specialises in supporting people living with HIV) since 2014. Viktoriya has previously used drugs and served time in prison. Her HIV status was confirmed in 1996 and she was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2001.