Photo Exhibit in Moscow Aims To Raise Awareness, Reduce HIV/AIDS-Related Stigma
A photography exhibit featuring 25 well-known women from Russia and Ukraine that aims to raise awareness and reduce stigma associated with HIV/AIDS opened Thursday in Moscow, the Moscow Times reports. The goal of the exhibit, sponsored by UNAIDS, is to promote public and private discussions about the disease, particularly among women, the Times reports. The exhibit, titled "Stars Against AIDS," will run for two weeks in Moscow at the Stella Art Foundation. The exhibit will then tour the country, and a selection of photographs will be published as a 2009 calendar scheduled to be launched Dec. 1 on World AIDS Day.
According to the Moscow branch of Russia's Consumer Protection Service, of the 28,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the city as of January, more than 50% are women -- a 14% increase from 2007. In addition, most new HIV/AIDS cases among women occur among women ages 20 to 29, the Times reports.
Some experts said the increasing "feminization" of the epidemic in the country is a result of the changing nature of HIV transmission, as well as changes in gender-based social norms and sexual customs, the Times reports. Although injection drug use remains a primary mode of HIV transmission in the country, sexual intercourse is increasingly contributing to the spread of the virus, according to the Times.
In addition, many women cannot negotiate sex or condom use with their husbands or partners. "Some women suspect their husbands have many sexual partners but fear to be abandoned or beaten if they resist their husbands," Maria Ivannikova, head of the information department at the nongovernment organization AIDS Information Service, said. Unemployment and economic insecurity also lead some women to commercial sex work, according to the Times. Surveys conducted in various cities throughout Russia indicate that most sex workers are between ages 17 and 23 and do not consistently use condoms, the Times reports (Osadchuk, Moscow Times, 5/21).