The Russian HIV Epidemic Continues to Grow
By admin December 20, 2017

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For nearly two decades, Russia has been dealing with an HIV epidemic that has explosively grown in the past five years. Although it has gone unnoticed by the rest of the world until recently, reported cases of HIV have grown by an annual 10 percent since 2012. The crisis been exacerbated for three main reasons:  misinformation, stigma, and lack of governmental resources.

In December 2016, the Russian Federal Aids Center stated that 1.1 million HIV cases have been reported in the country, which caused the government to ramp up efforts to curb the infection. The Russian government embraced a United Nations program to support the global community diagnose and treat ninety percent of global infections, but infections have continued to dramatically increase this past year, with officials estimating over 100,000 new cases at the end of 2017.

One of the main reasons for the epidemic is that misinformation has spread through the Russian population. Millions of Russians believe conspiracy theories that HIV and AIDs are not real and a myth propagated by the West, specifically the United States. Of the total population infected with the virus, less than half are on a treatment plan of antivirals to prevent the infection from worsening. A belief shared in these fake stories is that the drugs administered are poisonous and pharmaceutical companies are just trying to make money through deceit. Another belief shared by millions of Russians is that condoms are only effective as contraception to prevent pregnancy and do nothing to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, so many infected individuals engage in unprotected sexual contact.

A second cause of the epidemic, which runs hand in hand with the misinformation spread among the populace, is the lack of government resources, as clinics are understaffed and underfunded, leading to a lack of educational resources and time for infected individuals to consult physicians. Along with a lack of health education and money for treatment programs, the government has provided little support for indirect public health solutions, such as needle distribution programs. For instance, only one of these programs operates in Moscow, which has a population of 12 million, and only has enough funding to take a small bus out each night to few neighborhoods in the capital.

Although the figures over the past few years have been dire, many experts believe the country’s “tipping point” was reached when news broke that a million cases have been reported. Although it could take a few years to see major results, many argue that the government has woken up to the problem and recent commits of funding and policy solutions will make a difference for millions of those infected with the virus.


Related Readings:

How homophobia feeds Russia’s HIV epidemic

Russia’s HIV epidemic is fueled by virus deniers, who think it’s all a Western hoax

Russia faulted for HIV epidemic that bucks global trend

On the front lines of Russia’s ‘staggering’ HIV epidemic

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