World Has the HIV epidemic really caused "37,000 deaths a year" in Russia?
People living with HIV in Wuhan struggle to find medicine during coronavirus outbreak
It was 3 a.m. one January morning when Alex Zhang began an hours' long cycle to a Wuhan hospital for emergency supplies of medicine to treat his potentially life-threatening HIV infections. The city was in the early stages of a lockdown to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus that has killed at least 4,600 people worldwide, according to John Hopkins University. Normally he would take a train or a taxi, but now that was impossible.Instead, Zhang, 26, went at night and cycled the back routes to avoid police checkpoints. He had a small window in which to get the drug before the lockdown went into full effect.
This number of deaths announced by the director of the National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS) concerns 2018. Quoted by several media, it comes from work put forward by the Russian Vadim Pokrovski, head of the Center federal scientific and methodological prevention and control of AIDS. According to AFP, in Russia, more than 1.1 million people are living with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV (to be distinguished from the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, the last stage of infection by the virus).
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They would be more than 1.4 million in 2019, according to preliminary data from the Federal Center published on its site . According to Pokrovski, 103,000 new diagnoses were made in 2018 in Russia, out of 144.5 million inhabitants. In comparison, the same year in France (67 million inhabitants), 6,200 people were diagnosed, according to Santé publique France.In 2019, half of the Russians diagnosed received antiretroviral treatment
The figure quoted by François Dabis was recently quoted by a star youtubeur in Russia, Iouri Doud. His HIV in Russia video, released on February 11, has been viewed more than 16 million times. And blew up on Google the number of searches in Russian for the words "buy AIDS test". The number of people coming for screening has increased significantly in some cities. And interest in home testing has surged. "We are addressing the issues that people avoid or are ashamed to talk about," says Doud. "Like the HIV epidemic and AIDS; only some activists talk about it." And for good reason: many prevention NGOs are qualified by Russia as "foreign agents", which complicates their operation.
This spotlight, hailed by senior officials, does not provide a lasting solution to the epidemic. "We need constant and lasting actions to raise awareness of HIV, and programs to systematize screening and treatment," said Alexander Goliusov, director of Eastern Europe and Central Asia at UNAIDS. In 2019, according to the Federal Center, only half of Russians living with the virus received antiretroviral treatment, which allows them to live normally and no longer transmit it.
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