Number of HIV Infections Increasing in Siberian Regions of Russia
The number of HIV cases in the Siberian regions of Russia is increasing but the growing epidemic in areas east of the Ural Mountains is being overlooked, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Although much of Russia's HIV epidemic is centered in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Galina Kalachyeva, head of the epidemiology department at the Siberian Center for AIDS Prevention, said there are nearly 40,000 HIV-positive people in Siberia. Five out of the 10 Russian territories with the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence are located in Siberia, according to Richard Day, a biostatistician in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Yevgeny Zvedre, a senior counselor at the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., said that the country has registered 307,000 HIV cases, with nearly 13,000 of the cases among children (Srikameswaran, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6/14). However, HIV/AIDS experts say more than one million HIV-positive people live in Russia and up to one million Russians could die of AIDS-related causes by 2008 (Associated Press, 6/14). Day said that poor surveillance and health infrastructures make official statistics unreliable. More than 75% of HIV-positive people in the region are between the ages of 15 and 30, and the number of HIV cases related to injection drug use increased rapidly after 1996, the Post-Gazette reports. According to Kalachyeva, HIV-positive men outnumbered HIV-positive women by eight to one in 1990, but now that ratio is about one to one.
"This is what we see in Africa, for example," Charles Rinaldo, a University of Pittsburgh AIDS specialist, said, adding, "It says there's a lot of heterosexual spread of the virus going on, as well as the [injection] drug user spread in the Siberian region." According to Linda Frank, executive director of the Pennsylvania/MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center, there are 6,000 HIV-positive people in Vladivostic, Russia, but only 200 of those people are receiving antiretroviral drugs. "In many ways it's like it was in the United States ... before we had any medicine," Frank said (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6/14).
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of a Center for Strategic and International Studies HIV/AIDS Task Force session discussing HIV/AIDS in Russia is available online.