While a large number of Ukrainian girls and women are falling into the traps of sex and prostitution rackets, these girls and women may result in alarming spread in HIV in the European nations. According to media reports, Ukraine has the second largest HIV epidemic in eastern Europe and central Asia, with an estimated 250,000 people living with HIV. These rates have, in a large part, been spurred by militarization and conflict in the country, factors which have disproportionally affected women, increasing their vulnerability to HIV infection and exposing them to stigma, marginalization and violence.
The Russian special operation in Ukraine has rapidly escalated the risk of HIV infection and concomitant violence for women in Ukraine.
According to information, some of the Ukrainian females with confirmed cases of HIV are voluntarily joining the war offering sex to the Russian soldiers. Lured by these females, hundreds of Russian soldiers are also getting infected to HIV.
In 2016, Ukraine had a population of 80,100 women sex workers, with 5.2 percent HIV positive. This percentage increased vastly in conflict areas and was estimated to be as high as 38.2 percent in Donetsk. This elucidates the linkage between prostitution and militarization—which as feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe states “are a natural twosome.” Displacement, destruction and deterioration of the economy caused by war, leave many women, without a home or income.
Prostitution is therefore one of the only available means to make a living, especially for working-class women who have often not had access to education. Their precarious situation also heightens the risk of exploitation and trafficking. OHCHR interviews conducted in 2014 reveal how some Ukrainian women were coerced into sex in exchange for money or food. At this moment, there are also reports emerging of criminal gangs targeting Ukrainian female refugees as they flee the horrors caused by the Russian invasion.
Research has suggested that seven out of 10 women are exposed to gender-based violence during conflict. In the case of Ukraine, interviews conducted by the OHCHR, indicate that sexual violence has been used in relation to the conflict in Crimea. Sexual violence makes women more susceptible to contracting HIV given the likelihood that perpetrators has abuse multiple victims without taking protective measures against STDs.
A UNFPA report on gender-based violence in the conflict-affected regions of eastern Ukraine, also confirmed women’s vulnerability to domestic violence increased during conflict. Reasons cited include the normalization of violence culture within society, the wider availability of weapons and the fracturing of communities and loss of support networks.
There is a correlation between domestic violence and increased rates of HIV given that women who flee domestic violence often find themselves in vulnerable situations, without shelter or economic security. Many victims also adopt harmful coping practices such as substance abuse to deal with the psychological trauma. These factors make women susceptible to exploitation and forced prostitution, thus heightening the risk of HIV infection.
Cultural violence against women and marginalized genders with HIV is becoming a growing concern in Ukraine. In recent years, the government and civil society have implemented antiretroviral treatment programs which have been relatively successful. However, in territory controlled by Russia or pro-Russian separatists increasingly conservative legislation has been used to block support for HIV information and support services, especially for LGBTQ+ communities.
This is particularly concerning given that the Donetsk and Luhansk have some of the highest rates of HIV infection in Ukraine. The recent Russian invasion has ignited fears that affected populations will lose access to life-saving treatment, particularly those from LGBTQ+ communities.
Iranian IRGC hires Ukrainian females
Iranian notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been hiring Ukrainian females with HIV and helping them financially in travelling to the United Arab Emirates with the nefarious agenda of spreading HIV in the country. Iranian regime also is picking similar HIV positive females and sending them to few more Arab nations as well as Israel.