RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
In soccer-crazy Europe, the focus today turns to the kickoff of Euro 2012. The European soccer championship is being held for the first time in Eastern Europe. It's co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, a source of pride for those host nations.
There are also concerns. Ukraine has the highest HIV-infection rate in Europe among sex workers; as many in one in three are HIV-positive.The arrival of hundreds of thousands of fans - mostly men - combined with lots of alcohol and the easy availability of prostitutes, could prove to be a dangerous mix. David Stern reports from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
DAVID STERN, BYLINE: A stereo blares Ukrainian rap as four workers from ENEY, an anti-AIDS collective, hit the streets of Kiev. Twice a week, they visit pockets of the city where prostitutes congregate, providing counseling and testing for STDs. Yulia Vorodina says that she's worked with ENEY two years, helping those who have nowhere else to turn.
YULIA VORODINA: (Through translator) We provide services to those who need us. Those that have some money, don't work with us. They can get their own condoms, and visit clinics themselves.
STERN: The bus comes to a halt near a rundown sauna complex on Kiev's outskirts. Six young women dressed in micro-short skirts; black, imitation-leather jackets; and sky-needle heels emerge from the shadows. One of them, Vika, a 23-year-old, says that some women don't use condoms because they can earn more that way. But she says that thanks to ENEY, she and her girlfriends no longer have unprotected sex.
VIKA: (Through translator) We protect ourselves, always. We work, you could say, according to instructions. Because in this line of work, you have to be protected.
STERN: Oksana Matiyash works for the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine. Oksana says that the overall rate of new infections has dropped considerably from two years ago. But rates via heterosexual intercourse are on the rise, due to prostitution and partners of intravenous drug users. Infection rates among prostitutes are usually 1 to 3 percent. But in Ukraine, they're close to 9 percent - and sometimes, more. Oksana Matiyash.
OKSANA MATIYASH: The highest HIV prevalence is in Donetsk, which is going to be one of the city sites for Euro 2012. HIV prevalence among sex workers there is more than 30 percent.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
STERN: One of Kiev's numerous glitzy discos - where commercial sex is prevalent. The HIV/AIDS Alliance says that some 70,000 prostitutes work in Ukraine, though that figure could be higher. Clients are attracted to this particular club by more than just the music.
What do you think of Kiev?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Yeah, Kiev is great, right?
STERN: What do you think of the club?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The girls are great.
STERN: Government officials say that they'll inform the fans about the dangers of unprotected sex. But forbidding them from visiting prostitutes would be impossible and counterproductive, they say. Tetiana Aleksandrina is head of Ukraine's state service on HIV and AIDS.
TETIANA ALEKSANDRINA: (Through translator) No one can forbid something like that, you have to understand this. Information is the key element for prevention.
STERN: But AIDS groups say that in preparation for the championship, police are cleaning the streets of prostitutes. Many continue to work, but underground. Oksana Matiyash.
MATIYASH: So it means they will hide from us, and it is bad for the implementation of the program.
STERN: Back at the ENEY truck, Tatyana Klimova, a clinician, tells a young woman her results are negative.
TATYANA KLIMOVA: (Foreign language spoken)
STERN: The woman smiles with relief. But Tatyana says the DNA truck team diagnoses three women with HIV every month. There was one just last week. What these numbers will be after Euro 2012 is anybody's guess.
For NPR News, I'm David Stern in Kiev, Ukraine.
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