A convoy of five vans snaked slowly Friday from the battered Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, toward Chernihiv, in the northeast of the country. On board were generators, clothes, fuel — and medications needed to treat HIV.
With a main bridge decimated by shelling, the drivers crept along back roads, hoping to reach Chernihiv on Saturday and begin distributing the drugs to some of the 3,000 residents in desperate need of treatment.
Organizers of efforts like this one are rushing to prevent the war in Ukraine from morphing into a public health disaster. The conflict, they say, threatens to upend decades of progress against infectious diseases throughout the region, sparking new epidemics that will be nearly impossible to control.
Ukraine has alarmingly high numbers of people living with HIV and hepatitis C and dangerously low levels of vaccination against measles, polio and COVID-19. Overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions for refugees are breeding grounds for cholera and other diarrheal diseases, not to mention respiratory plagues like COVID-19, pneumonia and tuberculosis.