HIV-infected women outnumber HIV-positive men

Moscow, St.Petersburg and the Sverdlovsk region are the three Russian regions, where the number of HIV-infected people is the largest

The day of December 1 is celebrated all over the world as the World AIDS Day. The holiday was marked for the first time in 1988. Organizers have chosen the motto “Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS” as the theme for this year's campaign. Females become infected with HIV much more frequently than males in one-time sexual contacts. The official statistics says that there are about 300 thousand HIV-positive people registered in Russia. Independent experts, however, believe that the actual number is about five times larger. Russia ranks third after India and China on the list of countries, where the epidemic of the incurable disease gathers pace.

Moscow, St.Petersburg and the Sverdlovsk region are the three Russian regions, where the number of HIV-infected people is the largest. About 80 percent of them – presumably young people between 15 and 30 years of age - were infected through drug injections. The sexual transmission of the deadly virus is becoming more and more common: the number of such occurrences in Russia was estimated at only 5.3 percent in 2001, whereas it skyrocketed to 20.3% in 2003. Every fourth of infected teenagers became sick through unsafe sex. The number of HIV-positive women in Russia made up 35.7 percent; the index is expected to grow in 2004 up to 42 percent. The number of sick women aged 15-20 exceeded the number of infected men of the same age group in 2003.

Almost all infected females are in the childbearing age, many of them deliver babies. About 2,100 babies were born from HIV-infected mothers in the Sverdlovsk region of Russia alone during the recent several years. About 600 babies have been born this year; 86 children have been diagnosed with HIV. Mothers turned down 133 of the infected babies.

The average cost of the AIDS-preventing therapy in Russia is $500-600 a month. The treatment is cheaper in foreign countries, because the state covers a part of the costs. A monthly course of therapy to prolong the life of a HIV-positive individual costs a bit less than $2,000 to the Russian government, although not more than 1,500 people receive the necessary aid.

Doctors believe that silence is one of the main reasons that helps the epidemic gather steam. The HIV infection has overstepped the limits of being just a risky group. The further development of the AIDS epidemic in Russia will depend on the virus's sexual transmission capability in heterosexual contacts. Specialists believe that the number of officially registered occurrences of the HIV infection will be probably decreasing, although they acknowledge that it is practically impossible to stop the epidemic from spreading across the nation.

The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, can make an infected person dangerous to others already in 24 hours. It is possible to diagnose HIV in not less than two weeks, although incubation may last from three to six months at times. As a rule, AIDS develops with an HIV-infected person in only 12-13 years, and a person dies of the disease in five or eight years.

Igor Bukker

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Author`s name Olga Savka