In September, Ukraine launched a pilot project to introduce long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA) as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Ukraine is the first country in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia to receive this unique opportunity for HIV prevention among key populations with technical support from PEPFAR and with the assistance of the Alliance for Public Health and the Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.
Olga Gvozdetska, Acting Director General of the Center for Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, noted that this is an unprecedented opportunity for Ukraine to join the list of countries that have gained access to CAB-LA. “We need to work on what we have here and now, show the best practices of implementation and reiterate that Ukraine, despite the state it is in, does not stop, does not retreat, but rather moves forward. We are quite progressive and ready to innovate, even under martial law.”
This is an important step to improve patient care and reduce the spread of HIV.
Andriy Klepikov, Executive Director of the Alliance for Public Health, shared his experience of advocating for this opportunity for Ukraine:
“This is a truly remarkable day. For 2.5 years, we have been negotiating and arguing the need for CAB-LA, but we often heard that it was not the right time. Nevertheless, we did not lose our motivation and kept moving forward. Having received a refusal from the top management of pharmaceutical companies, we took advantage of our last chance – the support of PEPFAR – and, relying on the global strategy to implement innovative programs, we achieved our goal.”
Aaron Banks, PEPFAR Ukraine Country Coordinator, recalled that 7 months ago, when his team was approached by civil society and government representatives to pilot a state-of-the-art, or at least injectable, form of pre-exposure prophylaxis in the midst of the Russian war, he thought it was a fantastic idea. However, he is now convinced that today’s story is one of innovation in the Ukrainian healthcare system, and if Ukraine has taught the world anything, it is to never doubt commitment and strength!
It should be noted that the pilot project in Ukraine is being implemented by the Center for Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine in partnership with the Alliance for Public Health and Alliance.Global. The pilot project will involve 100 men who have sex with men (MSM) in Kyiv and Lviv over two years. Unlike tablet PrEP, which is taken daily or “on demand,” one injection of cabotegravir will be enough to be given once every two months. The first clients will receive CAB LA in December this year.