August 3, 2010
Russia "cannot ignore [the] ticking time bomb" that is the country's increasing HIV rate -- a "number [that] is growing at an 8 percent rate annually," Bertrand Bainvel, a UNICEF representative to Russia, writes in a Moscow Times opinion piece that reflects on the economic hardship since the fall of the Soviet Union. Though Bainvel commends the country's efforts to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV, which have helped slash the numbers of children born with the disease, he notes "as the epidemic continues to grow, maintaining such coverage means supporting more women and children exposed to the virus. ... In Russia, there are an estimated 1.8 million people who take drugs intravenously, and a large proportion of these drug users started this habit in their teenage years."
After noting the stigma and discrimination children living or associated with parents who are HIV-positive face, Bainvel writes, "We do not need policies, services and a society discriminating against vulnerable families, their children and people living with HIV. Those would further drive the epidemic underground and make it increasingly more difficult to control. To reverse the HIV epidemic, we must have the courage to face realities and to care, respect and protect the most vulnerable people in the country" (8/2).