Staunton, September 27 – Russian healthcare officials reduced the number of HIV tests by 15 percent during the first half of 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier, likely the result of a shift of resources to combat the coronavirus pandemic but unlikely to slow the spread of HIV.
That is especially likely because 63.2 percent of the cases diagnosed this year were contracted by heterosexual contact rather than by homosexual relations – only 2.6 percent – and misuse of drugs – 32.6 percent, compared to earlier when almost 60 percent of infections came from drug use (hivrussia.info/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Spravka-VICH-v-Rossii-1-polugodie-2020.pdf and iq.hse.ru/news/401259819.html).
One continuity, Russian healthcare officials admit, is that most of those who die from the infection now as in the past have tuberculosis listed as the proximate cause, boosting that figure. Since 1987, 1,465,102 Russians have been diagnosed with HIV. Of these 371,052 have died, including more than 30,000 deaths in each of the last three years.
What this underscores is that the Russian healthcare system in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s “optimization” – a euphemism for serious cutbacks – cannot respond adequately to unexpected challenges. By testing less for HIV, Moscow can claim and has that the number of new infections has fallen; but in fact, that is an artefact of its cutback in testing.
The odds are overwhelming that the number of HIV/AIDS cases in Russia is not ebbing as it is in many countries by accelerating, especially since the most important method of transmission is via heterosexual contact. It can no longer be dismissed as some politicians do as involving only gay people and drug users.