Since 2010, 9,000 HIV-positive people are fighting not only for their lives, but for preservation of the Lavra Clinic, too, where they undergo hospital treatment. The patients held another protest recently, erecting a symbolic mountain of shoes in front of the Cabinet of Ministers’ building. The shoes belonged to late AIDS sufferers when they were alive, and some elements of the mountain are children’s shoes. The protesters explain they could not tolerate the situation anymore, because the hospital on Lavrska Street has been closed and does not accept patients now, despite it being the primary medical facility providing services for seriously ill HIV-positive and hepatitis C-positive people from all over Ukraine.
The protesters say that the National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS) has ordered the hospital’s staff to be furloughed without pay, and hepatitis C drugs worth 20 million hryvnias were transferred from the hospital to another facility in early October. Thus, the desperate patients had no choice but to come to the walls of the government offices and demand the clinic to be reopened. However, the only sign of attention from the Cabinet of Ministers’ side was to send a dozen policemen to meet the protesters.
The patients began their fight for survival in 2010 when the Cabinet of Ministers prepared an instruction calling for expelling all businesses unrelated to functioning of the the Kyiv Caves Monastery and the National Historical and Cultural Sanctuary Kyiv Caves from the monastery’s territory. The instruction envisaged that the Lavra Clinic would be relocated to the Hromashevsky Institute of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases’ new building on Amosova Street. However, the building has not been completed, and nobody knows when it will be commissioned.
“The NAMS’s leadership is just destroying the hospital,” the head of the All-Ukrainian Charity All-Ukrainian Network of People Who Live with HIV/AIDS’ coordinating council Volodymyr Zhovtiak remarks. “We signed a memorandum with the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Kyiv Caves Monastery in July 2013. It stated that the relocation and transfer of patients to the new hospital building will happen only on its final completion. Currently, the clinic has 10 patients who have come from the provinces in search of medical treatment, but we cannot help them so far.”
Ihor, a patient of the hospital, adds that this institution is the only reason we can speak to him now, as he would not survive until this moment otherwise. Five patients died just in the past two months. Still, Ihor keeps hoping that there are people concerned with the HIV-positive patients’ situation in this country.
“We have faced various allegations, including purported intent to grab land near the Kyiv Caves Monastery or choosing a wrong tone in our contacts with the NAMS’s leadership. We have nothing to do with any of them, as human lives and hopes are what matters for us,” Anna Konstantinova, a patient of the Lavra Clinic, comments. “When people bring shoes of the late patients to the walls of the Cabinet of Ministers, it shows their desperation. This feeling is the only one that we continue to fight.”
Should the Cabinet of Ministers turn a deaf ear to the patients’ request and do not respond, the HIV-positive community is ready to go ahead and appeal for help to the World Health Organization.