By Paul Goble
For the past decade, the number of Russians infected with HIV has increased ten percent every year and now exceeds 1.5 million – slightly more than one percent of the population and a figure that exceeds the ability of the Russian health care system to cope, according to Federal Press’s Aleksandr Sadovnikov.
The situation is compounded, the journalist reports, by the presence in Russia of “more than 100,000” people in Russia on a temporary basis – mostly gastarbeiters – as well as by a shortage of money for medicines. As a result, 20 percent of those infected still die each year either from AIDS, other illnesses or suicides (fedpress.ru/article/1782143).
The epidemic is not equally spread across Russia, Sadovnikov continues. Half of all the new cases of HIV infection are from only 22 of the country’s subjects, with six regions – Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Moscow oblast, Krasnoyarsk kray, and the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous District being the leaders.
A major reason for the continuing worsening of the situation in Russia, the journalist says, is that HIV infections have now passed from traditional risk groups – drug users, prostitutes and their clients, and those with “non-traditional sexual orientation” – to the population at large, with homeless children, pregnant women, medical workers and migrants especially at risk.
Nonetheless, “more than 90 percent” of infections come from just two activities – drug use and unprotected sex – with just under half of these from sexual contacts.
A few days ago, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered an expanded effort to prevent the spread of HIV and treat those with AIDS, but experts say that while the government’s expanded focus is welcome, the success of this effort will depend on whether Moscow funds the effort and follows up, something it has not done in the past.