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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 November, 2003, 12:19 GMT
Russia and Ukraine 'naive about Aids'
By Steven Eke
BBC Russian affairs analyst

A new survey on awareness of, and attitudes to, HIV and Aids has revealed a high degree of ignorance of basic issues in two of the countries with the fastest growing epidemics - Russia and Ukraine.

Graphs and charts of the survey's main findings

Nearly 3,000 people were interviewed for the survey, which is part of a landmark week of BBC programming on HIV and Aids.

When asked: 'which issue worries you most?', Russians and Ukrainians overwhelmingly said "personal financial security".

Only 8% say HIV or Aids.

That might be a reflection of the comparatively small number of Aids-related deaths to have occurred in these countries.

In the African nation of Tanzania, by contrast, 98% of respondents said HIV/Aids was their biggest fear.

Misconceptions

The proportion of respondents in Russia who knew that HIV is potentially life-threatening was in line with the global average - 94% - but the figure was slightly lower in Ukraine.

Intravenous drug use
It was widely known that contaminated syringes can transmit HIV
There was greater awareness in both countries that HIV is transmitted sexually and by contaminated syringes than from mother to baby.

In a similar vein, one in 10 Ukrainians believes the virus can be transmitted merely by touching someone who is already a carrier.

But Russians and Ukrainians were among or above the European averages when it came to attitudes to sex education for people under 14 - a clear majority thought it was a good idea.

Rampant sickness

While the absolute numbers of Aids-related deaths in Russia and Ukraine are still low, the speed with which HIV is spreading means both countries face a medical time-bomb.

But both already face immediate medical concerns - notably, what to do about the region's pre-existing epidemic of ill-health.

Ukraine's health minister, for example, recently revealed that the mortality rate among middle-aged Ukrainians is up to 12 times higher than that for Western Europe.

Smoking, obesity and high blood pressure, not Aids, are the main causes.


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