AIDS epidemic and bureaucracy kills 700 in Russia's Kaliningrad region

Desperate people cuffed themselves to the doors of the city administration

About 15 people cuffed themselves to the doors of the city administration in Kaliningrad. The action of protest took place under the slogan “Our deaths – your shame.” The protesters claimed that HIV-positive people were not provided with medical help in the region. It is noteworthy that Kaliningrad is currently experiencing a catastrophic situation: over 700 people died of AIDS in the city in several recent years.

The participants of the action issued a special address to the city administration. According to their statement, the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the federal law about the struggle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic enables Russian people to receive medical care free of charge. However, only a few people can use the right, whereas thousands of others are left to the mercy of fate. “Who is going to be responsible for the negligence, which killed hundreds of people and how many others will have to die before the authorities pay attention to the needs of the HIV/AIDS-infected people?”

The action has attracted a lot of media's attention. Some newspapers wrote that a group of people attempted to seize the building of the city administration. There was no siege at all: several people simply handcuffed themselves to the building. Police officers arrested 15 people, including a pregnant woman and several HIV and hepatitis C-positive people.

”We, people living with HIV and AIDS, their relatives and close friends, demand equal access should be provided to medical care for all HIV/AIDS-infected people, regardless of social status and the way, by which the infection was obtained. The health-discriminating policy of the state contributes to further progression of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which inevitably leads to thousands of deaths,” the statement runs.

The protesters believe that the problem could be solved by means of immediate registration of cheap medications, or with the start of the home production of similar medicines. Medical officials, the protesters believe, hinder the processes for their own economic and corporate interests.

Police officers unblocked the entrance to the city administration in 40 minutes after the action of protest started. Young people were arrested and taken to the detention center for investigation, as the action had not been authorized.

Daria Ocheret, the coordinator of the New Narcopolitics alliance (which is the strategic alliance of several organizations to support rational changes of the Russian politics regarding drugs; one of the main goals of the alliance is to struggle against the spreading of the HIV-infection) commented:

”The AIDS epidemic in Russia started in the Kaliningrad region. It is a port city, which made it become one of the pestholes of the illness in the country. It is impossible to cure AIDS-infected people of the disease, although it is possible to extend their lives for several years. This treatment costs about $10,000 a year. Needless to say that hospitals refuse to treat such patients, although the federal law guarantees it. About 700 people died just because they could not get the medicines. A group of people decided to express their protests against this situation and cuffed themselves to the doors of the city administration. However, it was an action of desperate people – victims of state bureaucracy. We must stop the genocide of our own people, regardless of their social group,” Daria Ocheret said.

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Author`s name Olga Savka