High HIV Prevalence Among Commercial Sex Workers, Street Children in Moscow Could Fuel National Epidemic, Study Says
HIV prevalence among commercial sex workers and street children in Moscow is 30 to 120 times the prevalence among the general Russian population, according to a study published in the July 2 issue of the journal Lancet, giving credibility to health experts who have warned that the nation's capital is driving a nationwide epidemic, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. U.S. and Russian researchers, led by Anna Shakarishvili, a medical epidemiologist at CDC, in 2001 and 2002 conducted tests for HIV, three bacterial sexually transmitted diseases and biomarkers for drug use on 1,066 individuals. The study volunteers included teenagers ages 15 to 17 at a juvenile detention center, adults at homeless detention centers, and men and women at a prison center. Between 45% and 79% of the women in the study were commercial sex workers, and as many as one in nine were injection drug users. The study found HIV prevalence ranged from 1.8% to 2.9% for all study participants and was about 4% among women in the prison center. In addition, syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia was detected in 120 of the 202 women in the prison center, 97 of the 200 women at the juvenile center and 133 of the 200 homeless women. "The high prevalent sexual risk behaviors, sexually transmitted infections, injecting drug use, and the overlap between sex work and use of injected drugs ... are alarming and could facilitate further explosive growth of the epidemics" nationwide, the study says. Moscow should launch HIV/AIDS and STD awareness and treatment programs, with a focus on at-risk women and youth, the researchers conclude (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/30). Russia has registered 307,000 HIV cases, but HIV/AIDS experts say more than one million HIV-positive people live in Russia and as many as one million Russians could die of AIDS-related causes by 2008 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/15).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.