Workshop in Ukraine ensures gay men access PrEP and sexual health services during pandemic

By Angel Fabian, Advocacy Coordinator, MPact[1]

Alliance Global, a Ukrainian LGBT organization, and MPact Global Action teamed up in December 2019 to host a two-day workshop on PrEP demand generation among gay and bisexual men. As a result, Ukrainian gay men are able to access PrEP and sexual health services even as the global pandemic causes massive disruption.

Ukraine is a mid-sized eastern European country where the HIV epidemic is concentrated among key populations, including gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. The epidemic is compounded by high levels of homophobia and stigma against people living with HIV.

Alliance Global operates the only LGBT community health center in Kiev. The clinic provides sexual health services for gay and bisexual men including prevention, testing, and treatment for HIV, Hepatitis C, and STIs. A few other major cities also have such tailored services, but that is not the case in most of the country.

Since 2019, Alliance Global has also been at the forefront of providing PrEP for gay and bisexual men. The organization created and coordinates the website prep.com.ua which is an online hub for information and linkages to PrEP services. The website enables the Ukrainian government to reach gay men and provide them with PrEP at no cost. About 2,500 gay men in Ukraine access PrEP annually because of the government support facilitated by Alliance Global and other community organizations. Despite these efforts, demand for PrEP outside Kiev has been low.

To address the low demand, Alliance Global and MPact teamed up to host the December workshop to increase uptake of PrEP in gay and bisexual men. Nine peer educators from six cities in Ukraine were selected after a competitive process to participate in the workshop. Participants analyzed barriers to accessing PrEP services, learned prevention skills, and were trained on program implementation skills to enable them to effectively manage PrEP projects.

Workshop participants and other peer educators who were not able to participate were given information on processing new PrEP clients using the website. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system was also added to the website to improve the processing of applications for PrEP services. The CRM system enables data collection from clients and provides a means to schedule client appointments with peer-educators.

A post-workshop evaluation found the peer educators who participated in the December workshop were able to increase enrolment of gay and bisexual men on PrEP by up to 65% in their cities between September 2019 and April 2020.

Online platforms have become the norm for delivering HIV and PrEP services during the ongoing pandemic. Alliance Global is well positioned to continue connecting clients to PrEP and other sexual health services via the prep.com.ua website, thus ensuring uninterrupted service and the well-being of their gay and bisexual clients.

MPact will continue to engage with Alliance Global and other advocates in Ukraine to promote PrEP and comprehensive sexual health services for gay and bisexual men. For more information about our work, please contact Angel Fabian at afabian@mpactglobal.org.

[1] With contributions by Charlie Baran, Consultant, MPact and Andrii Bogoslavets, Project Coordinator, Alliance Global.