MOSCOW, November 28 (RIA Novosti) – More than 143,000 Russians have died from HIV-related illnesses since records started being kept, a federal AIDS research center official said Thursday.
Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the AIDS research and prevention center, said 20,000 people died from complications of HIV last year alone.
Rampant drug addiction and lack of effort in improving sex education have crippled Russia’s fight against an AIDS epidemic that has raged since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Pokrovsky said that 780,000 people in Russia are currently registered as HIV-positive, and that 51,000 of those cases were recorded this year.
A separate report published by the Federal Consumer Protection Service earlier this month said Russia’s HIV infection rate had grown 7 percent this year.
The report said drug addicts sharing needles remained the primary cause of infection, accounting for 58 percent of all new cases, followed by heterosexual sexual contact at 40 percent.
The number of drug addicts in Russia is estimated by the government to number 8.5 million people, or almost six percent of the population.
Symptoms and spread of HIV and AIDS
Efforts at curbing the spread of HIV have been exacerbated by the authorities’ reluctance to raise awareness about sexually transmitted diseases.
Schools generally offer little or no sex education.
Children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said in September that he opposed teaching teenagers about sexual health in school, and said that Russian literature is “the best sex education there is.”