HIV Spreading Rapidly in Russia; Epidemic Moving Beyond Injection Drug Users Into General Population
HIV/AIDS is spreading rapidly in Russia, and the virus, which spread initially through injection drug use in the country, is being transmitted more often through sexual contact, Inter Press Service reports. Russian officials by early this year had registered more than 300,000 HIV cases, up from 270,000 registered last year, according to Natalya Ladnaya, a senior researcher at Russia's Federal AIDS Centre (Kenn Klomegah, Inter Press Service, 3/15). UNAIDS estimates that about 860,000 HIV-positive people currently live in Russia (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/9). Other independent agencies have estimated that the total number of HIV-positive people living in Russia is as high as 1.5 million, or 1% of the Russian population, Inter Press Service reports. Many of the HIV/AIDS cases are among people ages 18 to 29, and more than 40% of the HIV cases reported this year are among young women infected through sexual contact, Ladnaya said. "It is quite likely that the epidemic will progress on the same pattern as in Africa, where HIV is contracted primarily through sex," FAC Director Vadim Pokrovsky said, adding, "[I]f by 2010 Russian people are still becoming infected with HIV at the same rate each year, then this scenario suggests that there was insufficient will to change social behavior and attitude."
Pokrovsky said that the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia has "added to the burdens" of an "already reeling" health care system, Inter Press Service reports. Ladnaya said that the epidemic could produce a "demographic catastrophe" for Russia that could harm the country's economy (Inter Press Service, 3/15). Russia is experiencing dramatically low birth rates and extremely high death rates, which have caused the country's population to decline by more than four million people, or 3%, in the 11 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, according to a report from the National Bureau of Asian Research, a Seattle-based not-for-profit research organization (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 11/29/04). The visibility of HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns in Russia has "declined," and advertisements and billboards promoting condom use have "significantly disappeared from view," according to Inter Press Service. A recent study showed that half of Moscow's population has inaccurate information about HIV transmission, and 45% of Muscovites support programs to isolate HIV-positive patients from the rest of society (Inter Press Service, 3/15).
Survey Examines Russian Businesses' Response to HIV/AIDS
A recent survey conducted by Transatlantic Partners Against AIDS among human resource managers of 137 Russian companies showed that many companies in the country lack awareness of basic HIV/AIDS information and knowledge about how the epidemic is affecting Russia and do not have strategies in place to fight the disease among their employees, according to a TPAA release. However, some companies recently have begun initiatives to implement workplace HIV policies, according to the release. A TPAA policy brief, titled "HIV/AIDS as a Business Issue in the Russian Federation," includes the results of the survey (TPAA release, 3/15). The policy brief is available online.
Detailed information on how the HIV/AIDS epidemic is affecting Russia is available online from kaisernetwork.org.