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International News

Official: AIDS in Russia Being Ignored

February 11, 2002

AIDS is soon to ravage Russia with consequences that may be even more catastrophic than in Africa, yet the public is barely even aware the epidemic has arrived, Russia's top AIDS official said. After decades of little contact with the disease, Russia and Ukraine have suddenly been caught unprepared in the throes of the world's fastest growing HIV epidemic.

Of Russia's 180,000 officially registered infections, 100,000 occurred just last year. Experts guess the actual number of Russian cases is as high as 1 million, more than 1 percent of adults. "Every year, we see the number of new cases doubling. If this continues even two or three more years, we will see not one percent, but two, four, eight," Vadim Pokrovsky, head of Russia's official AIDS center, said in an interview.

Russia's AIDS epidemic is already far worse than in Western Europe and North America, where the disease struck high-risk populations of drug users and homosexuals but stopped before becoming widespread among the rest of the public. Just how much worse it will get is not yet clear. It began in Russia among drug users and has not yet spread widely to the public at large through heterosexual acts, as it did in Africa. But Pokrovsky points to sky-high rates of other STDs, which are signs of widespread risky sex and which increase the chance of transmitting HIV. Russia has syphilis rates hundreds of times higher than in the West.

Since HIV patients usually do not require medical treatment until years after being infected, the financial burden of the disease has yet to be felt. So far, the state is treating only 5,000 patients. But just to keep up with officially registered cases, it will have to treat 100,000 in 2005, and costs will explode. Pokrovsky estimates a public relations campaign to curb the spread of AIDS would cost $75 million.

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Adapted from:
New York Times
02.10.02; Reuters



  
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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.
 

 

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