Russians queue for HIV tests as health authorities warn of epidemic

Health authorities in Russia’s fourth largest city say one person out of every 50 in Yekaterinburg is HIV-positive and call on citizens to get tested.

YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA (NOVEMBER 2, 2016) (REUTERS) – Dozens of people in Russia’s fourth largest city, Yekaterinburg, queued on Wednesday (November 2) outside a mobile laboratory for an express HIV test as concern grows about high rates of the virus in the region.

Most of those willing to get tested said they had decided to come after hearing alarming statistics from the Deputy Head of Yekaterinburg government health department, Tatyana Savina.

Savina said on Tuesday (November 1) that nearly 27,000 Yekaterinburg citizens were infected with HIV and announced the start of a campaign to fight what she called an “epidemic”.

“1.8 per cent of the city population are HIV-positive. This is almost two per cent, or one person out of every 50 in Yekaterinburg. These are the cases we are aware of. So, real infection rate is a bit higher,” Savina told a news conference.

Savina said Yekaterinburg had been shown to have the highest infection rate in the country because local health officials were more efficient in getting people tested than elsewhere. Every year around 23 per cent of the city’s population is checked, compared to 15 per cent or even less in other Russian regions, Savina told a news conference.

AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is caused by the human immunodeficiency (HIV).

Last year Russia registered its millionth HIV-positive patient. But in January this year the head of Russia’s Federal AIDS centre Vadim Pokrovsky said that the real number of HIV-positive Russians could be as high as 1.5 million, or one per cent of the population.

For the head of the Russian “Aids-centre” foundation, Anton Krasovsky, the statistics are not surprising.

He said that the government has failed to pay enough attention to the problem and should learn lessons from abroad.

Russia planned to spend 40 billion roubles ($475.20 million) on fighting HIV/AIDs in 2016. Pokrovsky in January said 100 billion roubles was needed.