Saturday, January 15, 2022

Pandemic has Reduced HIV Testing and HIV Numbers But Not Necessarily Real Number of Cases, Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 26 – Health Minister Mikhail Murashko says the HIV/AIDS situation in Russia has “stabilized” and that the transmission of the disease from mothers to newborns has “almost completely stopped;” but a leading Russian expert says that while the latter is true, the new “stability” the minister sees is an artefact of reduced testing during the pandemic.

            Sergey Abdurakhmanov, head of the AIDS Center Foundation, points out that official statistics show not the number of new cases of infection but only the number found by testing, and testing in the Russian Federation has declined radically because of the pandemic (

            According to his group, the medical expert continues, the number of tests for HIV in Russia fell from 40,500 in 2019 to 35,500 in 2020 with further declines likely in 2021 when all the figures are in; and these figures do not allow analysts to take into consideration the reality that one individual may be tested several times.

            Moreover, it is almost certain that testing has fallen further among high risk groups where the rate of infection approaches 20 percent than among the rest of the population where the rate is “about one percent.” That is because most people in the former categories don’t want to get tested in government facilities, but some in the latter are nervous and get tested many times.

            That combination pushes the number recorded down but does nothing to reduce the total number of cases or even the rate of increase in infections. According to Abdurakhmanov, “the HIV epidemic in Russia remains a hidden problem” which government statistics do little to describe and which the absence of NGO’s dealing with it in many regions don’t compensate for.          

            At the same time, there has been real progress both in preventing the transmission of the disease from mothers to newborns and in the treatment of HIV/AIDS once people know they have it. Consequently, the expert says, “there have been improvements but it is still early to talk about stabilization.”

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