A group of Ukrainians infected with HIV warned on Wednesday that thousands could soon perish because the war-torn country was running out of treatment for the deadly virus that causes AIDS.
The activists staged a moving protest in which they marked out territory for a symbolic new cemetery outside the government building in central Kiev.
Advertisement"We are calling on the prime minister and the government of Ukraine to prevent this catastrophe," protest coordinator Volodymyr Zhovtyak said in a statement. "After all, medication being used by 30,000 HIV-positive people will run out in three weeks," he warned.
Activists link the problem to a law adopted last year allowing drug suppliers to receive full prepayment for medication they would not be required to deliver for up to six months.
The Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS said the change means medication that was supposed to be delivered by the end of 2014 may not reach the ex-Soviet country's poorly-stocked clinics until June 10.
Health Minister Alexander Kvitashvili told a cabinet meeting that he knew about the problem and was working with international humanitarian organisations to avert an all-out crisis.
"We have supplies through the end of June," said Kvitashvili. "The deadline for (drug) companies' deliveries is June 19."
The World Health Organization believes Ukraine is currently suffering from the worst HIV epidemic in Europe.
It reported 230,000 HIV-positive cases among Ukrainians 15 or older -- about 0.8 percent of that age group.
Ukraine's own statistics show 124,000 HIV-positive people registered for treatment with the government as of April 1. Health authorities identified 4,563 new cases in the first four months of the year.