Aids activists lead the fight against corruption across eastern Europe

The people of Ukraine can’t wait for health reforms – they are dying. Borzou Daragahi talks to the people who are weeding out corruption and changing the way medicine is managed

Thursday 13 February 2020 14:47 GMT
How the people treat budget cuts in Kiev
How the people treat budget cuts in Kiev (AFP/Getty)

Dmytro Sherembei was told he would soon die. He was HIV positive. And his lungs were perforated. The 22-year-old was lying on a bed in an isolation ward of a Kiev hospital. The doctor gave him perhaps two more months to live. He found himself caught in a trap with no way out but to fight.

More than 20 years later, Sherembei is very much alive. He is a force of nature as he hustles around the Kiev headquarters of 100 Percent Life, the healthcare advocacy group he co-founded. The organisation boasts a sparkling and well-equipped clinic inaugurated in 2018 with the blessing of Sir Elton John, scores of full-time employees sprawled across a complex near the Podil district of the Ukrainian capital, as well as a nationwide network of 16,000 activists.

He and a cadre of other Aids and healthcare advocates have used dramatic protests such as carrying coffins or giant tablets into the streets in front of parliament to demand reform of the country’s corruption-riddled healthcare system. The doctor that gave him the death sentence? Sherembei’s group now advises him on patient care.

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