Staunton, December 13 – A new survey which found that 1.5 percent of the Russian population is infected with the HIV virus has compelled the Russian health ministry to acknowledge that officials have been significantly understating the number of cases there. The ministry has been saying that only 0.7 percent of the population is infected.
Russian statistics have always been problematic, but sometimes the gap between claims and reality becomes too great even for Moscow to continue to assert things that aren’t true. That has happened in this case as a result of a program which 25,000 Russians in 24 regions were tested for the HIV virus (ura.news/news/1052316385).
That program found 375 infected, roughly 1.5 percent. The figure for the Russian Federation as a whole, officials now concede, is likely to be roughly the same and not the 0.7 percent they have claimed up to now. That means more than two million Russians have the virus (life.ru/t/здоровье/1069704/zarazhionnykh_vich_okazalos_v_2_raza_bolshie_chiem_pokazyvaiet_ofitsialnaia_statistika).
Because the regions involved, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Irkutsk oblast, Sverdlovsk oblast and Primorsky kray, have long been rumored to have far higher rates of infection that elsewhere, it is possible that the projection of 1.5 percent for the country as a whole may overstate the share. But it is certainly closer to the truth than the 0.7 percent.
Some officials are pointing to that possibility and calling on everyone to refrain from drawing conclusions until the final results are published next year (http://nsn.fm/society/vyvody-prezhdevremenny-minzdrav-o-prevyshenii-mnogoletnikh-pokazateley-po-vich.html), but even now it is likely that Russia is suffering more new cases of HIV infection than any other country.