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Aids Thursday, 1 July, 1999, 22:13 GMT 23:13 UK
Russia 'on verge' of HIV epidemic
Some 70% of Russian Aids cases are in Moscow
By Russian Affairs Analyst Stephen Dalziel

Figures released by the Russian Health Ministry suggest that the country could be on the verge of an epidemic of HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

By the end of June, more than 4,000 cases had been registered in Moscow alone.

Poverty, prostitution, drug abuse and ignorance are the classic symptoms cited by the Russian Health Ministry's Aids department for the steep increase in the incidence of the HIV virus in Russia.

Many of those infected are women, who are driven to the big cities, especially Moscow, by severe poverty in the provinces.

They see prostitution as a way of making money, but often get dragged into drug abuse, too.

Breeding ground

This turns into a vicious circle, as prostitution then becomes a means for fuelling the drug habit. And ignorance of Aids, especially in the provinces, makes the whole scenario a breeding ground for the HIV virus.

There are now nearly 16,000 reported cases of HIV infection in Russia, and 70% of them are in Moscow.

But health officials fear that the real figure could be ten times as high as this.

As well as the struggle to combat ignorance of the causes of the disease, the Health Ministry also faces a battle trying to raise awareness of HIV infection in the public consciousness.

They complain that, with Russia facing serious crime problems, and with incidents such as shoot-outs capturing public attention more vividly, many people's attitude seems to be that the Aids problem is not as serious as these figures suggest it is becoming.

See also:

22 Mar 99 | Europe
25 Jun 99 | World
29 Jun 99 | World population
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