March 15, 2012
Russia's top doctor said on Monday that new HIV infections rose 5 percent in 2011, with 62,000 cases recorded. According to Gennady Onishchenko, the country has logged more than 600,000 cases since 1987, a figure much lower than the UN's estimate of 980,000.
Onishchenko said heterosexual HIV transmission continues to increase and now accounts for 39.9 percent of cases, though most new cases are linked to injecting drug use. He worries that women are increasingly affected: Females now represent more than half of new infections in 13 Russian regions.
According to activists, ongoing social stigma against the groups at highest risk -- homosexuals and drug users -- impedes Russia's response to HIV/AIDS. International groups have long criticized Russia for failing to take a comprehensive approach.
Andrei Zlobin, who leads Russia's HIV patients association, said the official response to AIDS is marked by inefficiency, inaccurate data, and a lack of a plan. "The big question is why a country which spends so much materially lacks such efficiency," he said.