A study by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars suggests that the number of HIV-positive people in Russia is at least three times higher than the official figure of 300,000 cases, The Washington Post reports. The study also suggests the Russian HIV epidemic differs from those in North America and Europe, with about 80% of HIV-positive Russians being under age 30, while more than 70% of HIV-positive people in other nations are over age 30. It is believed the spread of HIV in Russia is primarily through injection-drug use and heterosexual sex, but the Russian government has no information on the transmission mode for more than half of the HIV cases in the country, preventing them from predicting how the disease will spread.
The study also reports that the number of HIV-positive conscripts in the Russian military has increased 25 to 27 times over the past five years, and that HIV antibody testing has decreased markedly, with 2.5 million fewer people taking tests in 2003 than in 2002.
The report says Russia's government must immediately take steps to curb the spread of HIV through education campaigns, HIV antibody testing programs, and expanded antiretroviral treatment. "If the leadership continues to pay only lip service to the issue, then the consequences in the very near term of two to three years, and certainly a decade from now, will be devastating to the society, to family formation, to the military, to productivity of labor [and] to continued growth of the gross domestic product," the study concludes.