Heroin use and HIV/AIDs on the rise as Donetsk struggles to help addicts

There are fears that supplies of substitutes like methadone will run out in the next couple of months

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The Independent Online

Heroin use and the spread of HIV is on the increase in Donetsk as the area’s conflict has led to a major shortage in the number of heroin substitutes available for addicts and recovering addicts.

Health officials and drug support charities in the area now controlled by separatist forces, say that their supplies of methadone and clean needles have nearly run out and this is leading to noticeably more people turning back to heroin and using dirty needles to administer the drug.

This has in turn, led to a significant rise in the number of people testing positive for the HIV virus, which they say is overwhelming their services. According to a report by Al Jazeera, before the troubles began the Ukraine government would provide users with substitutes such as buprenorphine and methadone, as well as needles and condoms.

Now, however, the supply line has been cut, with already 300 people in the separatist cities of Donetsk and Luhansk losing access to the drugs.

The first Donetsk People’s council was set up last May and despite heavy fighting, the area has been largely run by pro-Russian separatists since then.

Clinics say that they are now seeing the impact of this lack of supplies in the number of people contracting HIV.

Ruslan Polshkov worker at Donetsk-based HIV and Aids support group, told Al Jazeera: “HIV has increased because people shoot up as well as taking the methadone because the methadone dose is small, many people on substitution therapy had started families got jobs and no longer had drugs problems

“Now that they are back on the drugs, it has become harder because needles are expensive; no one has any money, now many clients ask for HIV tests.”

The situation is only set to get worse too with hundreds more set to run out of doses in the next month.