HIV/AIDS Experts at Conference Express Concern About HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Former Soviet Union States
HIV/AIDS experts at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City on Wednesday said they are concerned that former Soviet Union states are facing widespread HIV/AIDS epidemics, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said that concentrated cases of the disease among injection drug users, commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men are placing some countries "on the verge of a generalized epidemic," adding, "I am very concerned about the epidemic in the region, very concerned."
According to the UNAIDS report issued last week, the total number of people living with HIV in Eastern and Central Europe is about 1.5 million, and about 58,000 people died of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses last year. About 90% of those with HIV in the region live in either Russia or the Ukraine and most are IDUs or sex workers or partners of those individuals.
Experts at the conference said while there has been some progress in providing antiretroviral drugs to those who need them, funding and political support are lacking, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. According to UNAIDS, only one in four HIV-positive people has access to antiretrovirals in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In addition, AFP/Yahoo! News reports that stigma and homophobia are deeply rooted in the region and that more than half of the countries have policies, legislation or regulations that have been obstacles to care, treatment and prevention.
Farida Tishkova of the Tajik Scientific and Research Institute for Prevention Medicine, said, "The fight against HIV is a new problem. It's very challenging, and it involves a lot of issues. Some of the work we do can be incompatible with the laws and practices of our countries."
Anna Koshikova of the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS said there is more tolerance of HIV-positive people in the country's larger cities but there is a lot of stigma against HIV in rural villages. "When a village finds out that a person has HIV, life becomes very difficult, almost impossible," Koshikova said, adding, "Their children can't go to school, there could be physical violence, they may not receive medical help because they are afraid of revealing their (HIV) status. Many decide to move" (Ingham, AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/6).
Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference. A webcast of a session on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is available online.