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Commentary & Opinion
Opinion: Ensuring HIV/AIDS Treatment for MSM, Drug Users in Russia Is a Human Rights Issue

October 9, 2013

Noting Russian President Vladimir Putin's "new ban on 'homosexual agendas,'" Frank Wong, an associate professor in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, writes in an Al Jazeera opinion piece, "Putin's anti-homosexuality agenda is only one part of a much larger problem. Not all Russian citizens are entitled to the same level of civil liberties, social benefits, and welfare." He continues, "Among the most harshly affected by this disparity are injection drug users -- the overwhelming majority of whom are men -- and men who have contracted HIV due to having sex with other men who are HIV-positive," who, together, make up "more than 80 percent of Russia's one million HIV/AIDS cases." HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) and "injection drug users are not eligible for medical treatment of any kind; it is illegal for the state or for private doctors to provide such treatment," Wong notes. "Prejudice and stereotyping are not limited to Russia," Wong states, adding, "For many people, including educated and learned professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, there remains an underlying misconception that men who have sex with men and injection drug users cannot be productive or moral citizens -- even in the 'developed' world." He continues, "Ensuring that people are treated for HIV and AIDS isn't simply a public health issue, but a question of human rights" (10/8).

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