Staunton, March 20 – One of the consequences of Vladimir Putin’s “good news only” order in the run-up to the elections is that now that they are over, the bad news Russian outlets had held back is now coming tumbling out, likely putting a damper on any particular enthusiasm Russians may have for the outcome.
Among the most serious of these pieces of bad news is a report by Rosstat showing that HIV/AIDS infections are rising dramatically and that newly registered infections have increased continuously from 57,200 in 2010 to 88,600 in 2017 (iz.ru/720365/elina-khetagurova/zabolevaemost-vich-vyrosla-v-15-raza and rosbalt.ru/posts/2018/03/20/1690170.html).
The state statistics agency argues that these numbers reflect better identification of those with HIV/AIDS rather than an increase in their overall number, but many observers, including Duma deputy Fedot Tumusov, say that everyone knows that the real numbers, both base and increase, are far higher than the government acknowledges.
This disease, the deputy insists, is “the real threat to the nation. Not terrorism, but HIV/AIDS. And until the government develops a real program for combatting it … we will be fighting with statistics written down on paper and not for a real decline in the numbers.”
Rosstat continues to say that there are only 940,000 HIV infected Russians, “less than one percent of the population,” but most health care experts say the real number is far higher. Worse, they point out, the increases have been accelerating over the last few years after a period of relative stability up to 2013.
And they point out that “the more people who are infected with the virus, the greater the probability of its spread because once someone has been infected, he or she remains a carrier of the virus for life.” The experts call for devoting more attention to drug users and supplying them with clean needles.
They also urge providing free condoms on the streets for both homosexual and heterosexual Russians, and they call for expanding government support for treatment of those with HIV/AIDS. Last year, Moscow boosted spending on such treatment but “fewer than 40 percent” of those who needed it received it.
Last year, health officials say, many Russians with HIV/AIDS were not able to get any anti-retroviral medications because of their cost, something they hope will be a thing of the past now that Moscow has taken responsibility for buying them away from the regions, thus driving down costs.