For years Russia has remained remarkably silent on the challenge it faces from HIV and Aids. Now that silence has been broken by an epidemiologist who has been working in the field for more than two decades - and he calls the situation "a national catastrophe".
There are about one million people living with HIV today in Russia and year on year the rate of infection is rising. Almost 60% of those with HIV in Russia are injecting drug users and a further group are the sexual partners of the drug users. The HIV virus has spread like wildfire via contaminated needles and syringes. That is why many countries around the world provide clean needles and methadone, which is taken orally, in place of drugs which are injected.
Yet in Russia methadone is banned. The World Health Organization may see the synthetic opiate as essential in combating heroin dependence, but in Russia anyone caught using it or distributing it can face up to 20 years in prison.
Thumbnail: Flickr CC Sassy Mum Aids Awareness
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