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Responding to the public health consequences of the Ukraine crisis: an opportunity for global health diplomacy.

  • Author(s): Mackey, Tim K
  • Strathdee, Steffanie A
  • et al.

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Peace and stability in Eastern Europe is now at a crossroads with the rapidly deteriorating foreign policy crisis continuing to unfold in the Ukraine. However, largely overlooked in the context of other foreign policy and diplomatic priorities are the serious public health consequences for the region following the annexation of Crimea and the subsequent decision to ban opioid substitution therapy in the disputed territory.On 1 May 2014, the Republic of Crimea officially announced it would end access to opioid substitution therapy, an essential harm reduction tool recognized by international organizations and virtually all other European countries. The policy development marks a critical reversal in the region's fight against its growing HIV epidemic and also threatens years of public health gains aimed at providing evidence-based and integrated treatment approaches to combat drug dependence and HIV. Beyond these risks, the Ukrainian conflict could also negatively impact control of other infectious diseases that are converging with HIV and injection drug use, such as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and hepatitis C virus. The continuing conflict is also likely to have a significant negative impact on Ukraine's fragile public health system leading to even worse population health outcomes than currently experienced by the country.In response to this crisis, the application of global health diplomacy principles represents a possible route of advocacy to ensure that HIV prevention, humane treatment of substance using populations, and improving public health outcomes in the region are pursued among concerned international stakeholders. In order to be effective, global health diplomacy efforts must be coordinated and advocated in all forms of diplomatic engagement, including at the core, multistakeholder and informal levels and through existing channels such as the different human rights bodies of the United Nations as well as amongst other actors. Hence, the Ukraine crisis represents a critical moment for the practice and advancement of global health diplomacy in order to ensure global public health priorities are given their rightful place in foreign policy making to hopefully help in bringing resolution to the current conflict.

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