USA Today Examines Government, Grassroots Efforts To Fight HIV/AIDS Epidemic in RussiaUSA Today on Tuesday examined government and grassroots efforts to provide HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services in Russia (Nichols, USA Today, 4/20). Estonia, Russia and Ukraine are facing increasing growth rates in new HIV infections that are among the highest in the world, according to a report released in February by the United Nations Development Programme (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/28). Despite the report's "ominous numbers," government-sponsored HIV/AIDS prevention efforts "are virtually non-existent," according to USA Today. Injection drug users, who account for about 80% of HIV/AIDS cases in Russia, are treated as "criminals," and there are "few signs" that the central government in taking the epidemic seriously, according to USA Today. However, there are some "hopeful" developments, including increased funding from the World Bank, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the United States for Russian HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, USA Today reports. Diplomats and AIDS experts have adopted a two-part strategy that consists of first appealing to Russian President Vladimir Putin "in every way possible" to convince him that the Russian HIV/AIDS epidemic could cause "catastrophic economic risk" for the country, according to USA Today. Second, AIDS advocates want to "continue the momentum" built by foreign donors and private groups that provide prevention and treatment services to HIV-positive people in Russia, USA Today reports (USA Today, 4/20).
Commercial Sex Workers in Russia
Approximately one-tenth of Russia's HIV-positive population lives in St. Petersburg, and nearly half of the city's commercial sex workers are HIV-positive, according to a joint research project conducted by the St. Petersburg Pasteur Institute and nongovernmental organizations Humanitarian Action and Stellit, the St. Petersburg Times reports. Of the 48% of commercial sex workers in the city who are HIV-positive, 96% are injection drug users, according to the Times. In Moscow, only about 12% of HIV-positive sex workers use injection drugs, the Times reports. In Moscow, "pimps and madams manage the girls' time and life, dictating what is and what is not allowed," according to the Times. In St. Petersburg, sex workers are more independent, and they are free to choose whether to use a condom, the Times reports. Although most HIV-positive people in Russia acquired the disease through injection drug use, the disease increasingly is transmitted by sexual contact and the epidemic is spreading from high-risk groups to become more "generalized," according to the Times (Kozuharov, St. Petersburg Times, 4/20).
Additional information on HIV/AIDS in Russia is available online through kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on AIDS.