Russia Considers Ending Mandatory HIV Testing for Foreigners Entering Country
July 21, 2008
Following U.S. Senate approval of legislation to reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief that includes a provision to ease HIV/AIDS-related travel restrictions, Russian government officials have said they are considering replicating the U.S. measure, "an indication that Russia may end mandatory HIV tests for foreign residents," the Moscow Times reports. According to the Times, European Union countries and some former Soviet republics, such as Azerbaijan, do not have entry restrictions for HIV-positive people. Russia remains one of a dozen countries -- including Libya, Saudi Arabia and Sudan -- that bar long-term stays and immigration to people living with HIV/AIDS.
Avet Khachaturyan, director of the Transatlantic Partners Against AIDS in Russia and Ukraine, said that Russia's restrictions were adopted during a time of ignorance and fear about HIV in the country. "To address the problem, the state should create a policy of openness and go forward by spreading proper information regarding the ways the disease is transmitted," Khachaturyan said, adding, "We should understand that bans do not work but urge some people to hide their HIV status." Corinna Reinicke, coordinator of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS program in Russia, said restrictions have a stigmatizing rather than preventive effect. "The International AIDS Society condemns such a ban as discriminatory," Reinicke said, adding that when HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination are part of government policies or legislation, they are "one of the major obstacles to an effective response to HIV."
Nevertheless, Zubov said legislation to lift the restrictions would be difficult to implement. "It is not popular to lobby for the interests of HIV/AIDS people in the Duma, but bans and barriers that create the illusion that the problem is being tackled are easy to introduce," Zubov said. According to the Times, government officials did not say whether lifting the ban would lead to an end of tests for diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, syphilis and leprosy, which foreigners are required to take to obtain work permits (Osadchuk, Moscow Times, 7/18).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.