Misery unlimited

Published: Tuesday 31 December 1996

AS IF a deep economic crisis was not enough, Russians have to now contend with the snowballing effect of the AIDS epidemic. Earlier, as part of the Soviet Union, the people led a comparatively sequestered life with low levels of drug abuse and conventional behaviour. With the opening up of Russia, the number of newly registered HIV carriers has zoomed up.

"An AIDS epidemic has begun in our country," said Vladimir Pokrovsky, head of Russias AIDS-control centre. His gloomy prediction was that the number Of HIV carriers was going to quintuple every year till the end of the jentury. The root cause of the sudden increase in AIDS cases is being attributed to the fast spread of drug abuse. Drug users now account for nearly seven million of the population.

Cash-strapped as the government is, the AIDS control programme has run into difficulties. For instance, a programme to encourage the use of contraceptives was put on hold and may start only next year. Remarked Pokrovsky, "As of today we have not received a single rouble from the budget this year."

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