Staunton, July 24 – The Russian authorities have not been able to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Iskander Yasaveyev says. Indeed, they appear to be making it worse because “the rhetoric of ‘traditional values’ … used by the Russian authorities not only hasn’t restrained the growth of HIV but on the contrary has promoted it.”
That is because, the Kazan-based sociologist who is associated with the Higher School of Economics says, these “values” prevent “the sexual education of young people, the discussion of the use of condoms, and the widespread use of programs [such as needle replacement] to reduce the harm in the use of narcotics” (idelreal.org/a/28634666.html).
Last year, there were 103,000 new cases of HIV infection in the Russian Federation, 5.4 percent more than the year before and not including those identified anonymously, Yasaveyev reports, concluding that “this means that protecting people against HIV infections in Russia is ineffective.”
Moreover, he reports, only 286,000 of the almost 900,000 residents of Russia who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are receiving anti-retroviral medications. Some have even been forced to go to court to try to force government hospitals to provide them with these life-saving drugs.
In this article, however, Yasaveyev focuses on two things: the overly bureaucratic and traditionalist approach to efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and the continuing exclusion and mistreatment of those who have been infected.
The researcher notes that films and other programs intended to fight HIV/AIDS never discuss safe sex in a serious way and never even mention the use of condoms, something many traditionally-oriented Russians oppose and that are either of low, domestically-produced quality, or of higher quality but imported and more expensive.
But what is even worse, he suggests, is that government propaganda in this area reinforces a number of mistaken views about how HIV infections spread and thus gives aid and comfort to those who want to exclude anyone infected with the disease from any contacts with others.
Indeed, Yasaveyev says, in the past few months alone, he has heard of several cases in Kazan alone where employers fired workers as soon as it was discovered that they were infected with HIV. Nothing happened to the employers who did this, thus sending a powerful signal to those infected that they must hide from others – and not risk getting treatment.
That in turn means that as a result of the traditional values that inform this Russian government effort more people will die rather than receive the treatment they need.