HIV

   / AIDS
   The Russian Federation has had an ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. At times, the situation was described as epidemic, attracting the attention of global media, health, and financial institutions, including a United Nations conference on HIV/AIDS in Moscow in 2000. The majority of victims are drug users who become infected by sharing needles; these cases are followed by a second wave of infections spread by sexual contact. Some statistics show that there are about 40,000 new cases of infection every year. Particularly disturbing are figures showing the number of children infected with HIV.
   In the 1990s, the Yeltsin government tended to ignore the problem of the pandemic, causing mass speculation and media frenzy, and leaving the problem for foreign agencies and foundations to tackle. In 2006, Vladimir Putin’s government for the first time allocated a significant allowance in its budget for HIV prevention schemes. Despite the increased spending and widening coverage of HIV prevention programs among populations who are at higher risk, the number of new cases has not declined. This is largely because people with HIV/AIDS are stigmatized in Russian society. The majority of the population—and especially religious people—views HIV/AIDS as proof of moral degradation, thus ignoring the reality of how the infection spreads. As a result, people take few precautions, which explains why the number of infected people has surged. The philistine attitude to sexual education results in many young people having unprotected sex.
   With a few exceptions, popular culture and the mainstream media provide no explanation of the dangers of unprotected sex targeted to young people. Therefore, there is a contradiction between the official representation of the problem and its popular perception. At the same time, a number of documentary and feature films have been produced that truthfully represent the dangers of HIV/AIDS infection. The HIV/AIDS crisis remains one of Russia’s greatest demographic challenges and is a major impediment to the country’s economic, social, and cultural development. The epidemic is also indicative of Russia’s ailing health care system.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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