HIV, Drug Use, and the Politics of Indifference

Jarrett Zigon

in “HIV Is God's Blessing”

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780520267626
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948327 | DOI:
HIV, Drug Use, and the Politics of Indifference

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There is little doubt that Russia today is in the midst of an HIV epidemic. Unlike many other parts of the world, where sexual contact is the primary means of transmission, the Russian epidemic is primarily driven by injecting drug use, yet very little is being done about it. This chapter provides an overview of the HIV and injecting drug use epidemic in Russia and the indifference of the government, authorities, police, and medical personnel. The government continues to underfund programs or medical facilities related to HIV or drug use. The drug policies are actually helping to fuel the epidemic instead of curbing it. They are characterized by a focus on the criminalization of drug use, due to which the majority of state funding goes toward anti-drug law enforcement rather than treatment and prevention programs. Added to this is the deep and widespread corruption within the Russian police forces and legal institutions. There is a presence of an institutionally entrenched stigma against HIV and drug use. Care is denied at state medical facilities to anyone who is known to be infected with HIV or to have contracted AIDS. This system leads to a general lack of knowledge, skill, and perhaps even sympathy on the part of medical personnel. The Russian Orthodox Church program, which provides the opportunity for injecting drug users to live normal lives, is almost exclusively funded by non-Russian sources.

Keywords: HIV epidemic; treatment programs; criminalization; anti-drug law; Russian Orthodox Church

Chapter.  4241 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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