Friday, March 27, 2020

Russia’s Other Pandemic – HIV/AIDS with More than a Million Infected

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 23 – HIV/AIDS is “developing according to the same scenario as the coronavirus but over a more extended time,” Russian medical experts say, with more than a million Russian citizens now infected, more than a third of those infected since the epidemic began having died, and with existing government measures incapable of preventing increases.

            At a four-day conference in Kazan of NGOs who are seeking to fill the gap, speakers said that in some places this plague has achieved horrific proportions but that the government medical system has not addressed it, with many officials still viewing it as a criminal rather than a medical matter (

            In the last year alone, Liliya Taisheva of the Center for Hygiene Instruction of the Population notes, this has meant that more than 94,000 new cases of HIV have been identified, a figure that is pushing Russia toward the top of the list of countries with this problem, including many in sub-Saharan Africa.

            Not enough testing is being done, she continues. As a result, many with the infection don’t know they have it and continue to spread it rather than get assistance. Everyone must learn “their HIV status,” she says; and they must be able to find this own in a free and accessible manner.

            Yevgeniya Alekseyeva of the Focus Media group which has publicized the problem says that NGOs can fill the gap. Where they are active as in Tatarstan, the numbers of new infections are down; where they are not as in Irkutsk and Sverdlovsk oblasts, the infections and resulting deaths continue to surge.

            “In Yekaterinburg,” for example, she says, “2.5 percent of the male population over 25 is infected with HIV,” and the share of pregnant women who carry the virus is one percent, making it likely that without special measures, both of these numbers will skyrocket in the coming years.

            According to Alekseyeva, “the coronavirus, as a result of which dozens of countries have closed their borders, is far more the biggest enemy of humanity. HIV remains a no less essential problem and threat. Not everyone understands that the HIV epidemic is developing according to exactly the same scenario as the coronavirus but over a more extended period of time.”

            And HIV is even more deadly when it grows into AIDS. In 2019, she continues, HIV/AIDS passed tuberculosis as the deadliest infectious disease in the Russian Federation.

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