Controlling Russia’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic Requires Strong Government Leadership, Opinion Piece Says
The Russian government must increase its efforts to control the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic because "the large and growing numbers of people" living with the disease will have "significant consequences on Russia's social stability, national security and economic development" unless the disease is contained, Cesar Chelala, an international medical consultant, writes in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece. The country's HIV/AIDS policies -- including those that exclude injection drug users from government-funded antiretroviral therapy programs -- are "fueling rather than controlling the epidemic," Chelala says. With an HIV/AIDS epidemic that is moving into the general population and "explosive" increases in the number of cases of other sexually transmitted diseases and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, Russia needs to create an interdisciplinary commission to "attack the problem," Chelala writes. The commission, which should include public health experts, social and political leaders, and people living with HIV/AIDS, should be given "wide powers" to coordinate policies among ministries and national, international and nongovernmental organizations, according to Chelala. The government also needs to implement a "massive" public education campaign -- aimed at "high-risk" groups, such as young people, military personnel and prisoners -- to address the stigma surrounding HIV-positive people, Chelala says. The reforms being carried out in the national health care system also should include training for doctors on how to prescribe antiretrovirals independent of the country's AIDS centers because "this epidemic demands that other primary health care settings be enlisted," according to Chelala. The government also must increase funding for practically "nonexistent" prevention programs, as well as treatment programs, Chelala writes, concluding, "Unless more effective treatment and prevention measures are implemented soon, the effect on Russia's population -- and its economic development and political security -- could be nothing short of catastrophic" (Chelala, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.