Country's 'religious policies' worsening spread of HIV

This is not unconnected to the country's increasingly conservative agenda, reports say.

The HIV epidemic is reportedly worsening in Russia with at least 2 million Russians likely to be infected in about 5 years.

President Vladimir Putin, who enjoys unwavering support from the Russian Orthodox Church, has over the past years been promoting increasingly conservative values in a bid to rally support from his core constituents of middle-aged Russians and blue-collar workers.

According to Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the country's state AIDS centre, said policies centred at promoting traditional family values has failed to halt the spread of the deadly virus.

In an interview with AFP, the AIDS centre head said "the last five years of the conservative approach have led to the doubling of the number of HIV-infected people"

He further said  the official number of Russians with HIV has grown from around 500,000 in 2010 to some 930,000 people, of whom some 192,000 have already died.

Also a large majority of this number is young people aged between 25-35, and die around age 35 with heterosexual intercourse appearing to be the most common route of HIV transmission in the country.

Pokrovsky said that some 90,000 people contracted HIV in Russia last year, compared with fewer than 3,000 people in Germany, which has one of the lowest rates of HIV in Europe.

He attributed Germany's success in fighting the disease to drug replacement therapy for addicts, which is banned in Russia, as well as the legalisation of prostitution and sex education in schools.

Unless tough are taken to halt the spread of the virus, Pokrovsky estimated that there would be some 2 million registered HIV carriers and some 3 million Russians with HIV in total in about 4-5 years.

This year the government plans to spend 21 billion rubles (about N85 billion) to fight the disease, up from 18 billion rubles a year earlier, the bulk of which would be spent on antiretroviral therapy.


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