Number of Army Draftees Have HIV"
Moscow Times (07.15.05):: Stephen Boykewich
Prevention News Update 07/21/2005
Two recent reports on AIDS in the world's armed forces warn that Russia
faces a grave situation. A UNAIDS report tracked progress on UN Security
Resolution 1308, adopted in 2000 to address the threat of an unchecked
HIV/AIDS pandemic on international security. The other report, "HIV and
National Security: Where Are the Links?" was prepared by Laurie Garrett
for the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. Both reports are
partly based on the research of Murray Feshbach of the Woodrow Wilson
Center, an expert on the effect of infectious diseases in Russia.
Feshbach said that in Western Europe and North America, "70-odd percent
of the total prevalence of HIV/AIDS is among people 30 and over. In
Russia, 83 percent are 15- to 29-year-olds. That's the core group of
potential conscriptees." Major General Valery Kulikov, a top military
medical officer, said 9,000 potential draftees were rejected because of
HIV during the past five years, adding that was only the "tip of the
iceberg" since HIV screening for draftees is not systematic.
Russia dismisses drafted soldiers with HIV, but contract soldiers and
officers continue to serve while they are fit for duty. The UNAIDS
report said 0.8 percent of Russia's military, or 96,000 out of 1.2
million, have HIV/AIDS. The CFR report, Feshbach and others say the
number may be higher.
Marina Shegai, director of the Moscow-based nongovernmental organization
Aktsent, said soldiers stigmatize and lack information about HIV and
that military doctors contribute to the problem. However, she has seen
increasing cooperation among military officials, noting that her
organization has led a series of initiatives to educate draftees and
Akram Eltom, an AIDS project director with the World Health
Organization, said only an urgent Kremlin-led effort can reverse the
growing epidemic in Russian society at large, including the military.
"Russia still has the past legacy, as well as current health system and
public sector apparatus, that when the entire state apparatus is
mobilized to achieve a certain goal, it can be achieved," he said.