KYIV, 16 March 2010 – Christopher Kennedy Lawford paid a visit to Ukraine on 14-17 March 2010 to discuss with senior health officials, civil society activists, donor community issues related to hepatitis C (Hep C) prevention in Ukraine and share experience in its healing. US national spokesperson on Hep C Lawford together with UNICEF Chief of HIV/AIDS Section Jimmy Kolker visited Kyiv to raise public awareness on Hep C and HIV co-infection and to advocate for the aversion of risky behavior among young Ukrainians.
Christopher Kennedy Lawford, nephew of John F. Kennedy, has worked extensively in politics, government and the non-profit sector as well as spent over twenty years in the film and television business as an actor and producer. However, before his successes, Lawford battled a drug and alcohol addiction for much of his early life. In recovery for more then 24 years and being Hep C survivor, he shares his experience with others hoping to make a difference in people’s lives.
Starting his visit to Ukraine, Lawford emphasized “Millions of people, including Ukrainians, are affected with Hep C. Having the recent world progress in its prevention and treatment, Ukraine has a chance to learn from international experience on how to address effectively this public health challenge. And I hope my advocacy visit to Kyiv will make a positive contribution to it.”
Globally, an estimated 170 million persons are chronically infected with the Hep C and 3 to 4 million persons are newly infected each year. In Europe the most common route of transmission occurs via injecting drug use. In Ukraine, as many as 1.1 millions may be chronically infected with Hep C, which is the leading co-infection for HIV. In a country, which is the most affected by HIV and AIDS in Europe, 80 per cent of Ukrainians living with HIV are young people.
“Ukraine has made a progress in prevention of HIV infection among young people, but more to be done for making significant impact in battling this epidemics and saving lives of younger generations”, stated Chief of HIV/AIDS Section at UNICEF's New York headquarters Jimmy Kolker. “That’s why the visit of such high profile advocate as Christopher Kennedy Lawford generates public awareness and encourages political commitment to address Hep C and HIV effectively.”
Hep C treatment is successful in 45-80 per cent of cases depending on the virus genotype. To advocate for access to treatment for Hepatitis C and share the US experience dealing with it, Lawford met the representatives of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and the Parliament Committee on Public Health, as well as international organizations. In addition, he met Hep C survivors and delivered public lecture in Kyiv to raise awareness on public health challenges and to empower youth for prevention and community activism.
Christopher Kennedy Lawford is a distinguished advocate for critical health issues facing our society today. His commitment to the issues of substance abuse and hepatitis C has reinvigorated the debate around these vital concerns. He spends his time writing, acting and speaking around the world on health issues. He is the author of several books, including the New York Times bestseller Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption and in May 2009 Harper Collins released his third book Healing Hepatitis C.
Currently, he holds positions as a Public Policy Consultant for Caron Treatment Centers and works with the United Nations, the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse in efforts to raise awareness globally about addiction and hepatitis. He holds a Masters Certification in Clinical Psychology from Harvard Medical School as a Lecturer on Psychiatry. Lawford was born on March 29, 1955 in Santa Monica, California.
UNICEF is the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 150 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. UNICEF opened its office in Kyiv in 1997.
More information about UNICEF activities in Ukraine at http://www.unicef.org/ukraine/