Russian Authorities Detain 13 HIV/AIDS Advocates for Protesting Lack of Governmental Treatment Program
Authorities in the Russian city Kaliningrad detained 13 HIV/AIDS advocates on Tuesday for protesting the government's alleged "failure" to provide HIV-Positive residents with antiretroviral drugs, the Associated Press reports. The advocates chained themselves to the main entrance of Kaliningrad's City Hall for approximately one hour and accused the government of "inaction" concerning the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the city, according to the Associated Press. "Seven hundred people have died in Kaliningrad, and the authorities pay no attention" Alexander Rumyantsev, head of the AIDS advocacy organization Delo, said on NTV television, adding, "We are here because people are dying." Other advocates held signs that read, "Our death is your shame" and "HIV is not a sentence -- we need medicine," the Associated Press reports. According to City Hall spokesperson Leonid Donskikh, the advocates were taken into custody for holding an "unsanctioned rally" and preventing people from entering or leaving the building, the Associated Press reports. HIV is "spreading at an alarming pace" in Russia and is "particularly rampant" in Kaliningrad because of high rates of injection drug use, according to the Associated Press (Associated Press, 10/12).
The advocates who participated in Tuesday's protest also issued a statement to Kaliningrad officials that claims HIV/AIDS patients are guaranteed medical treatment at no cost under the country's constitution, Pravda.Ru reports. However, "only a few people" currently receive treatment, while "thousands of others are left to the mercy of fate," according to the statement. "We, people living with HIV/AIDS, their relatives and close friends, demand equal access should be provided to medical care for all HIV/AIDS-infected people, regardless of social status and the way by which the infection was obtained. The health discriminating policy of the state contributes to further progression of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which inevitably leads to thousands of deaths," the statement said. According to Daria Ocheret, coordinator for the New Narcopolitics Alliance, antiretroviral treatment in Russia costs approximately $10,000 per patient per year. "We must stop the genocide of our own people, regardless of their social group," Ocheret said (Pravda.Ru, 10/13).