Heedless Putin’s Russia, ravaged by AIDS
Russian dictator Vladimir Putin hasn’t mentioned his nation’s HIV infection rate in more than four years. Apparently, he thinks it’s no longer an issue. Either that, or he’s simply given up on the problem and, in classic neo-Soviet fashion, is sweeping it under the carpet.
It was announced earlier this week that Russia is on pace to record a 12% increase in HIV infection, with 50,000 new cases admitted by the Kremlin by the end of the year as compared to 45,000 last year, 40,000 in 2006 and 35,000 in 2005. And that’s only the data that the Kremlin is willing to publish; all knowledgable experts in the field agree that the total number of reported cases of HIV in Russia, which the Kremlin claims is 500,000, is underestimated by at least a factor of three. Nearly half of all newly reported cases of HIV are occurring in women of childbearing age. In short, there’s not telling how devastatingly bad Russia’s AIDS problem is getting with each passing day.
Shockingly, though it has been rolling in oil windfall revenues for some time now, the Kremlin has allocated less than $8 million for AIDS prevention in the annual budget. In fact, the yeoman’s share of work to fight AIDS has been done by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which will close down in Russia in two years because the oil windfalls disqualify Russia on a per capita income basis from receiving their support.
To date, the Kremlin admits that AIDS has killed over 50,000 Russians. Things are so bad that Vadim Pokrovsky, director of the Russian federal AIDS centre, is speaking out critically against his own government. He says that most Russians are ignorant of the nature of the disease and the availability of treatment, and are diagnosed far too late. He says that even the pitiful amount the government does spend on prevention and education is wasted since “a half-hour programmes on federal AIDS prevention are telecast only very early in the morning when only retirees may be interested.” In other words, Putin is only paying lip service to the problem, when his actual policy is to sweep the entire matter under the carpet. Pokrovsky puts it bluntly: “It seems to me that we still have no national policy on fighting AIDS. We are running in place, and meanwhile HIV is spreading.”
In other words, Russia’s “leader” is showing abject contempt for the lives of his countrymen, sentencing tens of thousands of them to a horrible demise rather than admit that Russia has serious social problems under his adminstration that he has yet to solve.
As bad as the problem is now, it is set to explode within the next few years in a truly terrifying manner. According to expert Russian demographer Murray Feshbach, data released by Pokrovsky shows that by the end of 2010 the number of Russians needing antiretroviral therapy will jump by almost eight times, to 467,000 — more than the total number of reported HIV cases in Russia right now, only a fraction of which require antiretroviral therapy.
It’s not clear that the Kremlin is even prepared to admit that such a catastrophic event is underway, much less that it will be able or willing to fund the massive expense that would be required for treatment. Even if funding were available, Russia simply has not developed the necessary infrastructure to deliver treatment when and where it is needed, either in terms of providing medical staff and clinics or in terms of circulating information and addressing the third-world stigma that AIDS still carries in Russia, making many unwilling to admit their problem.
And not only AIDS patients will suffer. Russia’s inablity to come to terms with its AIDS epidemic is merely reflective of a wider failure in public health. Feshbach points out that Russia has just as badly mismanaged the treatment of tuberculosis and a wide variety of other serious health problems. What’s more, the sicker Russia gets the greater the burden on the remaining population as productivity falls and the tax burden escalates.
Here again, our conclusion is obvious: Vladimir Putin and his KGB-dominated regime, totally unqualified to deal with issues of this kind, must go. Russians wail and moan about the threat posed to them by evil foreigners, and blindly ignore the threat they face from their own government. Stalin was far more harmful to Russia than Hitler, and Putin will do far more damage to Russia than any American government might dream of doing if he attains “president for life” status, as he is now seeking.