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Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
HIV soaring in Siberia
Anti AIDS pills
Russia's underfunded health service cannot cope
By James Rogers in Moscow

Doctors in the Russian town of Irkutsk, where more than half a million people live in the depths of Siberia, have reported a big increase in the number of cases of HIV, the virus which causes Aids.

Many regions of Russia have seen the number of HIV cases soar in recent years, a problem made worse by lack of funding for medical services.

The doctors say there has been a large increase in the number of HIV cases in the last 12 months.


Heroin needles
Shared needles spread HIV

Their official figures now show that there are around 5,000 people in the region infected with HIV.

Drug addicts

Charity workers suggest that this is almost certainly an underestimate.

As in other parts of Russia, where HIV infection is on the rise, the virus has largely been spread through intravenous drug use.

The number of heroin addicts has vastly increased since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.


President-elect Vladimir Putin
Will President Putin act on HIV?

Needles are in short supply and are frequently shared among users.

'Foreign disease'

Prostitution has also thrived in Russia in the last 10 years and this, too, has contributed to the spread of the disease.

In communist times, official propaganda labelled HIV as a virus largely confined to foreigners.

This view is still widely held today. It means that little is being done in Russia to check the spread of Aids.

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See also:

30 Apr 00 | Americas
US: Aids is security threat
04 Nov 99 | Aids
Aids up close
23 Nov 99 | Health
HIV hits 50 million
08 Jul 99 | Aids
Aids drugs factfile
08 Jul 99 | Aids
Aids worldwide
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