Examining HIV/AIDS Testing, Awareness, Stigma In Russia

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About 23% of Russians responding to a recent poll have taken HIV tests this year, according to the poll that examined HIV testing, awareness, treatment options and stigma conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Center, ITAR-TASS World Service Reports.

The poll, conducted nationwide in April and May 2008, surveyed 1,600 people in 140 Russian settlements. According to the poll's findings, about 28% of respondents with some level of higher education reported taking HIV tests, compared with 9% of respondents who had completed only primary education or some secondary education. When asked what they would do if they tested positive for HIV, nearly 33% of respondents said they would visit a local clinic; 23% said they would use a crisis hotline; 18% would visit the regional HIV/AIDS center; 15% would seek assistance from relatives, friends or acquaintances; 8% would search for information on the internet; and 8% would not seek assistance.

About 28% of the respondents reported that they would assist an HIV-positive relative, 16% reported that they would support an HIV-positive colleague and 14% reported that they would help an HIV-positive neighbor. A majority of Russians older than age 45 reported being undecided about their attitudes toward HIV-positive people, while 26% of people between ages 18 and 24 said they did not have a different attitude toward people living with HIV. The poll found that 48% of respondents primarily learned about HIV from social advertising and medical shows on television. Other reported sources of information about HIV/AIDS included radio programs, information materials in health centers and friends. About 1% of respondents used an HIV/AIDS crisis hotline for information about the disease (ITAR-TASS World Service, 12/13).

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NPR Examines HIV Prevalence in Russian City

NPR's "All Things Considered" on Saturday examined Chelyabinsk, Russia, which is a major transit point for drug trafficking and has an HIV prevalence of one in every 100 people, or about two times the national average in Russia. The head physician at the Regional Infection Center in Chelyabinsk said the Russian government "waited six long years" to respond to HIV/AIDS in the region and did not provide the "necessary funds" for HIV prevention and treatment." In the meantime, "drug use exploded" in Chelyabinsk, the physician said.

Chelyabinsk's HIV/AIDS center each night sends an outreach van into a different neighborhood to offer blood tests and counseling for injection drug users and other residents. About 30% of the people who take the blood tests are HIV-positive, and almost all have hepatitis C, Natalia Golubia, a physician in the city, said. NPR reports that the center also offers a needle-exchange program, although it does not discuss the program publicly. Pavol Bimacoff, a psychologist in Chelyabinsk, said the center does not want protests because many people are "against" providing services to HIV-positive people.

"Despite a recent information campaign, many still don't know enough," Bimacoff said. Although the government primarily focuses on providing services to injection drug users, men who have sex with men also are at risk, NPR reports. Sergai Avdeyef, head of Chelyabinsk's Compass AIDS Center, said, "Homosexuality is still considered a sin" in the city, and it is "hard" to find HIV-positive members of that community. NPR reports that the city's HIV/AIDS program is understaffed, and could face additional difficulties from the financial downturn (Garrels, "All Things Considered," NPR, 12/13).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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