HIV/AIDS Growing ‘Beyond Tight Circles’ of Injection Drug Users in Russia, Christian Science Monitor Reports
HIV/AIDS in Russia is growing "beyond tight circles" of injection drug users to "mainstream society," offering a "glimpse into the future of Russia's AIDS crisis," the Christian Science Monitor reports. The industrial city of Tver, which has a large population of injection drug users, in 1996 registered seven HIV-positive people; however, the most recent data show that the city now has 4,000 registered HIV cases and an estimated 16,000 actual cases. Although the prevalence of injection drug use has declined by two-thirds because of "higher-priced, poor quality" heroin, HIV/AIDS "continues to spread," the Monitor reports. "This is the echo of past drug problems. In 2000, 63% of drug users said they were having regular sexual contact with people who didn't do drugs, so we knew to expect this (epidemic)," Alexander Kolesnik, chief doctor of the Tver Regional AIDS Center, said. Cities such as Tver have responded by "reaching out to a broader audience," according to the Monitor. "The popular stereotype is that HIV means drug users, ... but now it has changed. Even when people know sexual contact is the main way of (HIV) transmission, it is very difficult to change their behavior," Kolesnik said. The AIDS Center this year has distributed 50,000 condoms and 25,000 syringes with funding from local nongovernmental organizations and donors. According to the Monitor, a recent poll of 300 people in Tver found that HIV/AIDS awareness is "beginning to register" among young people; 55% considered using condoms "normal," and regular condom use tripled from 20% in 1998 to 59% today (Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, 8/17).
Additional information on HIV/AIDS in Russia is available online through kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on AIDS.