By Paul Goble
For five reasons, Putin’s war in Ukraine has seriously worsened the situation victims of HIV/AIDS in Russia find themselves and made it likely that the number of those infected, already approaching more than one percent of the population of the country, will continue to rise, Iskander Yasaveyev says.
The sociologist who writes a column for the SibReal portal surveys expert opinion in Russia to reach this conclusion, one that he argues should be of serious concern to everyone but one that the Kremlin seems committed to downplaying or even ignoring despite what that will mean for public health (idelreal.org/a/32168227.html).
First of all, Yasaveyev points out, the authorities have stopped coverage or commemoration of the HIV/AIDS problem, almost certainly guaranteeing that fewer people will know how to avoid getting the disease or what to do once they have contracted it. Given that an estimated 400,000 Russians are infected but don’t know it, that will create by itself a healthcare crisis.
Second, as the government spends more on its military adventure, it is spending less on healthcare. Given how expensive HIV/AIDS treatments like antiretroviral drugs are, they are among the first to be cut back; and that means that even those who had been receiving treatment up to now may no longer get it.
Third, Putin’s military operation has led to a dramatic rise in alcohol consumption among many groups and that in turn is likely to lead to behaviors that will lead to a spike in the number of Russians not practicing safe sex and therefore likely to become infected.
Fourth, along with more than a million of their compatriots, many of the HIV/AIDS activists have fled the country to avoid being swept up by the mobilization. That means there will be less information about dealing with the threat and fewer people available to help those who contact the disease.
And fifth, the Putin regime’s increasing obsession with promoting traditionalism and fighting LGBT people is leading to “a further discrimination of such people and making it increasingly difficult to conduct any prophylactic work among them.” That means that more LGBT Russians will get sick and die as a result.
Consequently, Yasaveyev says, “Russia’s military actions in Ukraine besides the death and wounding of many thousands of people directly will lead to a growth in the number of cases of HIV infection and the further uncontrolled development of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.” That is yet another tragedy linked to the events that began on February 24 confronting Russians today.