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Media advisory

UNICEF Exec. Dir. to visit Ukraine to focus on HIV/AIDS and Iodine Deficiency Disorders

WHO:   UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy

WHAT:  Official visit to Ukraine to focus attention on disproportionate impact HIV/AIDS is having on children and young people, and to support efforts to achieve universal salt iodization.

WHY:   HIV/AIDS: Ukraine has among the fastest-growing levels of HIV prevalence in the region. Young males are the group with the highest prevalence rates, primarily because of injecting drug use; parent-to-child transmission of HIV shot up from 2 per cent of total infections in 1997 to 13% in 2001.

Iodine deficiency disorders: A 2002 assessment confirmed the presence of mild iodine deficiency (IDD) throughout the country and severe IDD in the north and west. IDD causes impaired mental capacities among children, cretinism and goitre.
WHEN:  11 and 12 May 2004

Key facts and figures:


  • Approximately 1 per cent of Ukraine’s adult population is living with HIV/AIDS. By end-2001, prevalence was highest among young males aged 15-24, estimated at between 2.5 and 1.4 per cent. Prevalence among girls and young women in the same age group ranged from 0.63 and 1.1 per cent. The number of children born to HIV-positive mothers has risen dramatically – some 6, 400 children, 121 of whom have died.
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia as a whole experienced  a 1,300 per cent increase in HIV infections between 1996 and 2001 – the fastest growing epidemic in the world. More than 80 percent of  people living with HIV/AIDS in the region are under 30 years old, unlike Western Europe and the United States, where only 30 per cent of HIV cases are among people under 30.

Iodine Deficiency Disorders

  • Some 80 per cent of newborns are not protected from IDD. While the proportion of households consuming iodized salt increased from 5 per cent in 2000 to 32 per cent in 2002, just over a fifth of households consume enough iodized salt to prevent cognitive damage and other IDD.
  • Iodine deficiency has contributed to the devastating effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Low iodine status has left Ukrainians more susceptible to the radioactive iodine that was released during the explosion, which has led to an upsurge in thyroid cancer.


For further information, please contact:

Dmytro Konyk, Comm. Officer, UNICEF Ukraine; tel: (380-44) 254-2450,
Liza Barrie, Senior Communication Adviser, HIV/AIDS (1-212) 326-7593
Marixie Mercado, Communication Officer, HIV/AIDS (1-212) 326-7133




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