In the thin atmosphere at the summit of Mont Blanc, as if on the steeple of the world, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Europe’s flag flutters in the frosty wind after four men scaled the snowy peak to test their courage and determination in the face of adversity.
On Aug. 28, AHF Ukraine Country Program Director Sergey Fedorov, together with world-renowned mountain climber Nikita Balbanov and two others, reached the top of Europe’s highest mountain – a journey to symbolize the struggles and successes in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, and celebrate AHF Europe Bureau’s milestone of getting to 50,000 patients in care this year.
Throughout the arduous seven-day trek, the climbers experienced altitude sickness and deteriorating weather conditions. They constantly had to assess their ability to continue the climb. Rescue helicopters consistently flew overhead, transporting climbers who could not go on—including the injured who had fallen and those who had become incapacitated.
Despite all this, the group persevered and made it to the summit, where Fedorov waved the AHF flag and received a rapid HIV test.
“Conquering the highest mountain peak in Europe and hoisting the AHF flag on Mont Blanc is a symbol of our future victory over AIDS,” said Fedorov. “This was a unique opportunity to send a message to Europe about our Test and Treat model, a successful program that saves many lives on this continent.”
Ukraine has one of the largest HIV populations in Europe with an estimated 240,000 people living with the virus – half of them do not know their status.
“A climbing tour is a journey full of incredible opportunities and adventures,” said Fedorov. “A person should never rest on their laurels, and in the fight against HIV, none of us should rest until we defeat the epidemic. This climb proved we can accomplish anything if we don’t quit.”
AHF has been working in Ukraine since 2009 and provides services to 27,305 patients.