chapter  4
30 Pages

Russia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic and government response

The previous two chapters discussed the working environment of HIV/AIDS NGOs in Russia by elaborating on both their domestic and international contexts. Locating the NGOs in the framework of civil society development, on the one hand, enables us to understand the challenges of civic engagement in postSoviet Russia, where civil society traditions remain weak and associations are hampered by an unfavourable regulatory framework. Contextualising the NGOs within the global governance of HIV/AIDS, on the other hand, gives insight into the international framework which recognises the participation of civil society actors and thereby strengthens their role as policy actors in the domestic realm. Both the domestic and international context shape the conditions under which HIV/AIDS NGOs are working in present-day Russia and affect their capacity to influence HIV/AIDS policy-making. Now it is time to shift attention to the problem area the NGOs in question are dealing with: Russia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. What is the current situation and how did it evolve? In May 2010, on the occasion of AIDS Memorial Day, Vadim Pokrovskii, head of the Russian Federal AIDS Centre, offered a sharp critique of the Russian government’s HIV/AIDS policy. Pokrovskii paints a grim picture of the current state of affairs: The epidemic has not stabilised, but continues to grow at an increasing rate. Each year more and more Russians contract HIV. In 2009 alone, 58,448 new cases were registered, which equals about 160 people daily. Pokrovskii blames the continuous spread of HIV/AIDS on the inability of Russian decision-makers to manage an effective response to the epidemic:

It is unclear why the government did not provide any resources for [. . .] primary prevention in 2010. It is unclear why the Government Commission on HIV/AIDS did not meet for the last one and a half years. It is unclear why the Ministry of Health [. . .] does not support the proposal to the Global Fund in order to prolong medical treatment for patients in need. It is unclear whether Russia has any strategy or long-term programme to fight HIV infection and where the “head office” of its implementation is situated. The answers to these questions one would like to hear from the representatives of the presidential administration.