Russian Prime Minister Draws ‘Catastrophic Picture’ of Drug Use, AIDS
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasayanov on Tuesday drew a "catastrophic picture" of drug use in Russia and the practice's possible effects on the nation's growing AIDS problem, Reuters reports. Russia, long a "stopover" on the drug trafficking route between Central Asia and Western Europe, has become a consumption market for heroin, cocaine and synthetic drugs since the mid-1990s, when rising incomes made the drugs more affordable. "The health of the generation which is due to take over from us is in danger," Kasayanov told a government meeting focusing on the drug problem. He said that the number of drug users in the country has increased 20-fold over the last decade, adding that the official estimate of 450,000 illegal drug users is probably only a "fraction" of the real total. Health officials estimate that as many as five million Russians, 60% between the ages of 18 and 30 and 20% teenagers, are using drugs. This level of drug use, Kasayanov estimated, represents a $2.5 billion market and is bringing diseases such as AIDS into the country. As many as 700,000 Russians are HIV-positive and are likely to die from AIDS-related complications within the next 10 to 12 years, Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the official AIDS prevention center, said. He blamed the "spiralling" rate of drug addiction for the new epidemic, which has migrated to Moscow and its suburbs. "The situation is very sad. ... We are currently going through the peak of an epidemic among drug users. In two or three years there will be another upsurge from sexual transmission of the disease," Pokrovsky said. Noting that an estimated 80% of HIV cases occur among young people ages 15 to 25, Pokrovsky added, "They are the pick of our nation which we can lose in 10 years' time -- right when they have finished their education" (Shukshin, Reuters, 3/13).
Possible AIDS 'Outbreak' in Kyrgyzstan
In nearby Kyrgyzstan, health officials expressed "concern" Tuesday over a possible AIDS outbreak in the southern region of Osh, the Associated Press reports. The former Soviet republic had no reported HIV cases until 1995 but had registered 53 cases by early this year, though observers estimate the actual numbers are "much higher." In February, five people were reported to have HIV in Osh, Boris Shapiro, head of a Kyrgz anti-AIDS group said Tuesday in an interview with the newspaper Vecherny Kyrgyzstan newspaper. All were IV drug users. Nurbolot Ishembayev, head of the Kyrgyz health ministry's epidemiology department, said the cases are considered "the start of an outbreak," but added that the situation is "under control." Shapiro estimated the actual number of cases in the region at 200 or more and cautioned that the virus could spread quickly among the region's 7,000 registered drug users (Associated Press, 3/13).