Silence as Russia’s HIV epidemic grows
A leading Russian epidemiologist, Vadim Pokrovsky, has raised the alarm on the rising numbers of people becoming infected with HIV in Russia. Despite an estimated 90,000 new infections last year alone, national silence on the issue of HIV and AIDS prevails. A ‘national catastrophe’ is unfolding according to Pokrovsky, who leads the Federal AIDS Centre.
Around 60% of people living with HIV in Russia inject drugs. Yet, a harm reduction approach to HIV prevention is hampered by the current ban on methadone. Instead drug users are subject to archaic abstinence programmes, which are widely unsuccessful.
Sex workers and men who have sex with men, who represent high-risk groups, are also stigmatised by discriminatory laws, which discourage them from protecting themselves or coming forward for HIV services, such as testing.
There is an urgent need to prioritise and dedicate funding to user-friendly HIV prevention and support services in Russia for most at-risk groups, and to repeal discriminating laws perpetuating the HIV epidemic.