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International News

Little Help in Russia for AIDS Sufferers; Fear, Ignorance Lead to Limited Patient Care

July 31, 2002

Peering between the tall metal bars of his bed, Vanya, age four, sees dozens of nurses come and go. Some stay a few months, providing rudimentary care to Vanya and 27 other children crammed into four dilapidated rooms with barred windows at the end of a dirt road in Ust-Izhora, Russia. Most nurses, however, leave on the same day, afraid their friends and families will turn away from them if they find out the children in their care have HIV, said Lyudmila Zhuravlyova, one of the children's teachers.

Someday soon, Vanya, whose health is rapidly deteriorating, will develop AIDS and die, said Yelenda Vedmed, a social worker at the Republican Hospital for Communicable Diseases, the only Russian inpatient facility for children with HIV. Most likely, so will the 27 other children in the ward, who were infected at birth and abandoned by their HIV-positive mothers. Until then, Vanya, the others at the hospital and the 2,400 Russian children officially registered as HIV-positive will have to fight for their lives against two merciless foes: the incurable virus inside them and the hostile ignorance outside. It is this stubborn ignorance, AIDS experts fear, that will contribute to a pandemic they predict in Russia over the next 20 years.

According to the Russian government, at the end of 2001 there were more than 40,000 women of childbearing age among the nation's more than 200,000 HIV cases. Non-government experts believe the overall figures may be as much as five times higher. Russian orphanages grudgingly admit healthy children who were born to HIV-positive mothers, Vedmed said, but they refuse to take in children with the virus. Most schools refuse to accept children with HIV.

Despite the efforts of numerous AIDS awareness groups, most Russians -- even doctors who work with HIV-positive people -- continue to treat all those with the virus as social outcasts. People with HIV are illegally expelled from schools and universities and fired or barred from dentists' offices, said Alexander Goliusov, head of the Russian Health Ministry's HIV infection and treatment department.

Back to other CDC news for July 31, 2002

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Adapted from:
San Francisco Chronicle
07.29.02; Anna Badkhen

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on HIV/AIDS in Russia