In a country with low population growth, 80% of the HIV infected population is between the ages of 15-30, Russia has a significant reason to worry about its future. Currently HIV patients comprise of 1% of the Russian population and an infection rate that is 10 times faster than UK. However, fear and ignorance is prominent in Russia’s tragedy.
he HIV and AIDS epidemic in Russia and the Eastern European and Central Asian region is growing at an exponential rate. Many experts in the field say that the problem the countries in this region faces are far worse than Africa but it is widely ignored. It is also very important to note that in this region, 90% of the HIV & AIDS cases are reported in Ukraine and Russia. And in Russia alone, two thirds of this regions HIV cases are reported. In total, the 2007 estimates indicate that there are around 1.5 million people living with HIV, with close to 60,000-70,000 individuals dying from AIDS. The prevalence rate of HIV among the adult population in Russia and Ukraine has doubled between 2001 and 2007 while the rates in Africa and Southeastern Asia actually fell. As of 2008, it is estimated that there are close to 1 million HIV infected individuals living in Russia.
The first case of HIV was reported in the Soviet Union in the year of 1986 due to homosexual relationship between soviet soldiers. Since homosexuality was forbidden, the matter was quickly covered up and HIV/AIDS did not receive the proper attention it needed. Rather, the issue was largely branded into a disease that only affects the gay population. Much like in the United States, HIV was treated as GRIDS (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) was treated in the early days of HIV in the US. Many individuals were tested for AIDS and HIV without their knowledge and those discovered faced extreme social discrimination. Thus many more infected individuals went unreported and the HIV/AIDS continued to grow.
The economic and political instability of the Soviet Union and the emerge of the young Russian Federation also played a key role in contributing to the problem. Unlike the western nations, Russia never really had a well developed health care sector. In fact, to this day (2009), Russia still does not have a decent health care system. Thus a HIV/AIDS awareness campaign was not a priority for the government and the health care sector had no resources or enough organization to even begin addressing the strong need for better reproductive health among the populace. During this period, the fall of Soviet Union led to harsh economic conditions in much of Eastern Europe and Russia. The rise of prostitution and the sex industry began to intensify the HIV epidemic. The sex workers are not educated about STDs or about HIV and many do not use any protection. To make matters worse, Russian were reported to have high rates of sexually transmitted diseases and the use of intravenous drugs began to multiply the risk factors.