Up to 1.5 Million Russians Have HIV, Government Says
April 21, 2003
Russias top HIV/AIDS expert said Thursday that despite a low number of AIDS deaths, an HIV epidemic rages in the country, with up to 1.5 million Russians carrying the virus. Vadim V. Pokrovsky, head of the Health Ministrys AIDS Prevention and Treatment Center, made the statement at a news conference promoting the battle against HIV/AIDS in Russian prisons and attended by representatives of the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders, Penal Reform International and Moscow-based AIDS Foundation East-West. Pokrovsky said HIV is spreading rapidly through the prison system: 37,000 inmates are confirmed to be HIV-positive.Adapted from:
The event focused on a new Russian-language health manual designed for use by prison health care providers. The WHO book portrays a grim picture of Russian prisons and many penal institutions worldwide that contribute to the spread of AIDS. The manual cites a Russian prisoner survey that found that of 1,087 respondents, 20 percent had injected drugs in a prison setting, and of that group 64 percent used shared equipment. Another Russian survey found that of 1,100 male prisoners who had been incarcerated for 1.5 to 10 years, more than 85 percent reported sexual contacts while imprisoned.
The WHO manual suggests providing sterile needles, providing bleach so prisoners can sterilize needles and providing methadone maintenance to curb HIV transmission from drug use. For sexual transmission of HIV, the manual quotes a statement by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS that it is vital that condoms, together with lubricant, should be readily available to prisoners.
Meanwhile, money for proper drug treatment of HIV/AIDS is available to only 1 percent of those known to be infected, Pokrovsky said. Yet because the AIDS epidemic is just beginning to explode, Pokrovsky added that immediate action could help to control major problems in the future.
Los Angeles Times
04.18.2003; David Holley