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Ukraine: Medical Care for Drug Addicts

Ukrainian blogger Pavel Kutsev raises issues about injection drug users’ access to medical care in his recent post. Pavel is the leader of the non-profit Drop-In Center, a center for injection drug users in Kiev.

In his post Pavel identifies two main obstacles that drug users who need medical assistance must overcome: A lack of free medical care options specifically for drug users provided by the government and social institutions, and the stigma that injection drug users face, especially from most Ukrainian medical personnel.

To support his first observation Pavel presents the following statistics:

Approximately 100,000 alcoholics and 50,000 drug addicts are registered in Kiev today and there is only one governmental clinic where a drug addict can get free detoxification and medical services. In Kiev social services centers there are many posters on the walls advertising services of … private hospitals, where the price of staying overnight varies from $800 per month to $1,000 a day. The average salary in Kiev is $300 per month… So what should we do? Without a job, money, passports, medical history and with health problems…

The second major issue that drug users face is stigma from the entire Ukrainian society, including the medical community. Pavel points out that this stigma is so strong that often drug addicts can't receive any medical care, even when they desperately need it.

To illustrate this point, Pavel posts his wife's memories, who is also drug addict, of a visit to the hospital when she was sick:

Having realized that without the assistance of a surgeon I will kick the bucket very soon, since I have a very high body temperature on a freezing winter day, I go to Railway Hospital to see a doctor. The doctor is a professor, a friend of my mother’s friend. I know from experience that in my situation it is better to go to a doctor through a reference. All day long my husband and I wait in a corridor …Vasiliy Nikitich (the doctor) is busy with the administrative staff…While staying in the corridor I start feeling really bad, so bad that I would agree to let them cut a part of my poor ass just to stop the pain.

Finally we are invited into the doctor's office and asked what our problem is. In that moment our problem is everything: long waiting with high body temperature, absence of veins, lack of money, and, most importantly, an unbelievable pulsing pain in my ass – and this last problem has to be solved urgently. There was no reason to lie as he could ‘read everything on my ass’ so I said I was a drug addict. I told him everything. That I was on drugs for a long time, that I had made a wrong shot and now feel so bad that I was surprised I was still alive: abscess, high temperature…doctor please help…'Get out of here!!! Now!!! Go away!!’ the doctor hissed and his fat face became red like a tomato…

I was shocked, scared, and got stuck to the couch…'Get out of here! I have enough shit here without you! You have some nerve to come here and pretend that you are sick when there are real sick people around.’ The only thing I wanted at that moment was to become a piece of furniture, a microbe, to disappear…so this stupid sick women who had had an illusion that she had a right to medical care just didn't exist…

I ran out of the office with tears, anger, and a feeling of helplessness…

After crying on my husband’s shoulder we trudged home. We understood that if we got such a reception when visiting a doctor with references then if I had gone to a regular doctor I could have even be put into jail…

I lay down on the mattress (all the other furniture by that time had moved to a dealer for poppy straws) feeling total emptiness and indifference about my future. There wasn't even hope for help; the only thing I could do is to pray…

2 comments

  • Mike King

    Please have Pavel Kutsev of the Drop-In Centre contact me for details of a completely holistic detox treatment that will effectively tackle heroin addiction. I have been working on this project for the past seven years and the results have been very good indeed. It originated in China and I was the first westerner ever to see it and meet patients who had been successfully treated for their heroin addiction problems.

    Thank you,

    Mike King.

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