Baltimore Sun Examines Russian Government’s Response to Growing HIV/AIDS Epidemic
The Baltimore Sun on Thursday examined the Russian government's response to the country's growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. There are approximately 1.5 million HIV-positive people in Russia -- about 1% of the country's population -- and the number could quadruple to seven million in the next five years, the Sun reports. The Russian government initially "ignored" the growing AIDS epidemic because many of the infected people were injection drug users, who were seen as "society's outcasts," according to the Sun. However, the disease spread into the general population two years ago. In 2002, approximately one in eight new HIV infections was sexually transmitted, up from one in 25 two years ago, according to the Sun. The Russian government currently spends $38 million annually on HIV/AIDS, compared with the annual U.S. AIDS budget of approximately $15 billion, according to the Sun. The government funds antiretroviral treatment for about 2,000 people, or one in 750 HIV-positive individuals. Some Russian officials "resent" the "[d]ire warnings" coming from Western AIDS advocates about the country's epidemic, according to the Sun. Alexei Mazus, director of the Moscow Anti-AIDS Center, said he believes that foreign HIV/AIDS groups working in the country are "arrogan[t]" and "exaggerat[e] the AIDS threat" in Russia, according to the Sun. Mazus said that the government has introduced a sex education program focusing on "old Russian values" to prevent HIV transmission instead of the "sex without consequences" philosophy that he said is taught in the West, the Sun reports (Birch, Baltimore Sun, 10/16).
More information on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia is available online as part of kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.