We Wouldn’t Mind If You Died of AIDS

nutter

HIV Prevention Organization in Altai Territory Closes Due to Inability to Pay Court Fine
Takie Dela
December 4, 2018

Choice (Vybor), a non-profit HIV service organization, has been forced to close its office in Biysk, Altai Territory, due to its inability to pay a court-imposed fine, reports Kommersant. The NGO had been found guilty of refusing to acknowledge it was a “foreign agent.”

The Altai Territorial Court upheld the ruling of the Biysk City Court, which had fined Choice 150,000 rubles [approx. €2,000] for failing to recognize itself as a “foreign agent” and voluntarily place itself on the registry of “foreign agents.”

According to Maxim Olenichev, a lawyer from Attorneys for Equal Rights who represented Choice in court, on November 30, the organization was forced to close its office and cancel its HIV prevention programs in the region, including programs for intravenous drug users and other risk groups.

“HIV-service NGOS have access to ‘closed’ groups of people who are unwilling to turn to state institutions for help,” Olenichev said in an interview with reporters. “Attacking such NGOS reflects a policy of ‘traditional values,’ a policy focused on criminalizing the actions of people who do not comply with these values or ignore them. By using the law on ‘foreign agents’ to destroy NGOs, the state promotes the growth of HIV-infected people, although by joining forces with NGOs the state could halt the epidemic’s growth.”

The court ruled that several of Choice’s campaigns, during which the NGO handed out HIV express tests (41 people tested positive — TD), over 100,000 clean syringes, and 20,000 condoms for free, were “political” in nature. Choice employees noted they worked with the primary vulnerable groups as defined by the Russian state, using the same methods as specified in the official rules for HIV prevention. The court chose to ignore these arguments.

The court also agreed with the Russian Justice Ministry’s claim that Choice had received foreign funding in 2014 and 2016. Choice received 147,000 rubles from ESVERO, a non-profit partnership, and 272,000 rubles from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Olenichev pointed out that ESVERO had been implementing a project of the Global Fund for Fighting AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which receives funding from the Russian government, in thirty-four Russian regions. The NGO was thus using grants to put the money back into the Russian economy. As for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which sponsored Choice with funding in rubles, Olenichev claimed there was no evidence in the case file that the organization was foreign. Nevertheless, the court refused to reverse the fine.

According to the latest data from the Russian Health Ministry, in 2017, 53.5% of new cases of HIV infection were caused by sexual intercourse, while 43.6% of new infections were caused by the use of intravenous drugs. According to official statistics, the number of HIV-infected people in Russia is 998,525. Eighty-one percent of them know they are infected.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized Russia as leading Europe in new cases of HIV infections at 71.1 cases per every 100,000 people. The virus is primarily transmitted through heterosexual sex (59%) and intravenous drug use (30%). The Russian Health Ministry has called these figures “extremely inaccurate.”

In late October, the Saratov Regional Organization of Chronic Diabetes Sufferers announced its closure: a court had also fined it 300,000 rubles for violating the law on “foreign agents.” The expert employed by the prosecutor’s office to audit the organization concluded it had “shape[d] preconditions for discrediting the authorities” and “report[ed] about the region’s so-called sore points to [its] foreign partners.”

Thanks to Alexander Feldberg for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Advertisements

Onward and Upward (The HIV Epidemic in Russia)

"HIV Positive." Photo courtesy of Gazeta.ru and Shutterstock
“HIV Positive.” Photo courtesy of Gazeta.ru and Shutterstock

UN Identifies Russia as Epicenter of HIV Epidemic
Takie Dela
July 15, 2016

UNAIDS, the United Nations organization that deals with HIV prevention, has published a report that claims Russia has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, writes Gazeta.ru.

According to UNAIDS, Russia’s regions accounted for approximately 80% of new HIV cases last year. The countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia accounted for another 15%.  The study says that, in terms of the speed with which the number of patients has been increasing, Russia has bypassed such countries as Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, although the numbers of people who are infected are twice as many as in these countries as in the Russian Federation.

According to the Federal AIDS Center, there are currently 824,000 HIV-infected people in Russia. Moreover, the proportion of new cases is 11% or 95,500 people. UNAIDS experts claim the deteriorating situation is due to the fact that Russia lost international support [sic] in the form of HIV programs and has failed to replace it with adequate preventive methods paid for by government funds.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, only 37% of patients under constant medical observation receive the medicines they need, that is, 28% of the total number of patients. On June 12, it came to light that Russia’s regions have begun receiving less money from the federal government for the purchase of drugs for HIV-infected patients. The funding cuts have ranged from 10% to 30%. Due to the fact that funding is insufficient, medicines are prescribed only to patients suffering critical levels of immunosuppression.

Another factor contributing to the spread of HIV in Russia is intravenous drug use. More than half of HIV-infected people were infected in this way.

Translated by the Russian Reader

__________

Relevant excerpts from Prevention Gap Report (UNAIDS, 2016):

Page 174. The scale of prevention programmes for key populations was insufficient to curb the region’s surging epidemics. This was particularly true in the Russian Federation, home to the region’s largest HIV epidemic and largest population of people who inject drugs (1.5 million).

Page 178. On average, 82% of people on antiretroviral therapy have a suppressed viral load. The highest rate was in the Russian Federation (85.2% of people on antiretroviral therapy), followed by Ukraine (77.7% of people on antiretroviral therapy); the lowest rate was in Tajikistan (32%). Given that only 21% of people living with HIV were on treatment, however, the prevention effect of the suppressed viral load would have only a marginal effect on reduction in HIV incidence.

Page 178. Even the limited coverage by prevention programmes was under threat. The Global Fund has been the region’s largest donor for HIV prevention among key populations since 2004. As of July 2013, however, the Russian Federation was classified by the World Bank as a high-income country; 7 of the other 14 countries are classified as lower-middle-income countries. As a result, international support to HIV programmes in the region is decreasing, and new domestic funding for HIV prevention is not keeping pace as the priority of HIV programmes in many countries is to increase coverage of antiretroviral treatment. In the Russian Federation, 30 projects serving some 27,000 people who inject drugs were left without financial support after the Global Fund grant ended in 2014. Although remaining projects in 16 cities continued to provide essential HIV services to people who inject drugs in 2015, their scale is not sufficient to change the trajectory of the HIV epidemic in the Russian Federation.

Page 179.  In the Russian Federation a so-called “law on foreign agents” interrupted the work of community-based organizations that receive international funding to provide HIV prevention services to key population in the absence of domestic funding for these purposes.