The situation in Ukraine is still unstable. This negatively influences the life of sex workers. They experience a decrease in income, which is directly linked to the general fall of living standards. People simply don’t have the money to pay for the services of sex workers. In addition, programmes that focus on prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among vulnerable groups, have undergone cut downs. Consequently, less condoms are distributed. And, as there are no doctors to carry out rapid STI testing, people prick their fingers and do tests themselves. Moreover, there is shortage of alcohol pads, gels, lubricants, gynaecological exam sets, and syringes for people who use drugs.
In Ukraine, prices go up and the exchange rate of the ‘grivina’, Ukraine’s currency, falls down. Numerous banks and organisations are bankrupt or on the verge of bankruptcy. Because of the difficulties of the banks, which provide services to our organisation LEGALIFE, we cannot properly perform our tasks. They introduced a limitation on money transactions, and we didn’t receive our salaries in time. It might take up to several weeks before the bank accepts a transaction. People are panicking and find it hard to survive, as the prices are rising while the salaries and pensions are going down. At the same time, the government introduces many new laws and various reforms, for instance in the health care sector. It is hard to keep track of all changes.
In Ukraine, there is shortage of alcohol pads, gels, lubricants, gynaecological exam sets, and syringes for people who use drugs
One of the challenges for vulnerable groups, such as sex workers, is the failing client management system. When a client goes to see a doctor accompanied by a social worker, this person is immediately admitted and presented with the necessary services and counselling. However, when a sex worker is told to go alone – as happens at present – she or he simple doesn’t go there out of fear of being not admitted and being treated with prejudice or criticised due to her or his behaviour. We can only imagine the decrease in harm reduction and the increase in the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
Yet, despite all the hardships which LEGALIFE is facing, we are able to stick to our mission and aims. And in spite of stigma and discrimination that sex workers experience in society, we organise actions, voice our wishes, and also take part in discussions that are hostile to us. I’m happy that the activists in different areas of Ukraine have managed to survive. Most of them moved to Russia, some remained in the east of Ukraine. It is hard to live there, with lack of food, demolished infrastructure, continuous shootings, bombings, and devastation. The only thing that calms me down and makes me really happy, is my family. My son is 16 years old and studies to become a chef, and my little daughter surprises me with something new every day. I look to the future with the hope that the situation in my country will change for the better.