Registered HIV cases
Estimated HIV cases
Newly registered cases in 2012
*Kazakh Statistical Agency, January 2013
**Kazakh Republican AIDS Centre, Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan, data as of January 2013
*** 'Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic', UNAIDS, August 2010
Characterised by steppe and semi-desert ecological zones, Kazakhstan borders Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China, and is the ninth largest country in the world. This land has been inhabited by semi-nomadic tribes for more than two millennia and has been ruled by various nomadic nations. Russia began its colonisation process of the area in the 1730s and, by 1840, took complete control over the country. In 1920, it became an autonomous republic of Russia and a Soviet Republic in 1936. In the 1930s, Kazakhstan experienced large inflows of people exiled from other parts of the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991 and established its capital in Astana, which lies in the centre of the country. Almaty, however, remains the country’s economic capital.
Today, Kazakhstan remains a multi-ethnic country with only 56% of the population consisting of ethnic Kazakhs and 28% consisting of Russians. Whilst the state language is Kazakh, the language used in business and inter-ethnic communication is Russian. The country is split almost evenly between Muslim and Christian communities.Since gaining independence, Kazakhstan has experienced sweeping political and economic reforms, which have resulted in relative stability in more recent years. It was the first of the former Soviet countries to repay its debt in full to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and is a member of numerous multi-national organisations. The current president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, first came to power in 1989 and was re-elected in the 2005 elections. In an effort to re-establish a national identity, the government has encouraged the return of ethnic Kazakhs by offering them subsidies.
Today, the HIV epidemic in Kazakhstan is relatively young and is highly concentrated among injecting drug users and sex workers. Additionally, given that Kazakhstan is located at a key point on the regional drug trafficking route, in addition to high rates of unemployment, migration and poverty, high-risk behaviour related to HIV is not uncommon. In 2006, HIV outbreaks through blood transfusions and nosocomial transmission (that is, via hospitals and medical treatment) in the Shymkent region caused more than 100 children to become infected. Kazakhstan receives funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to support the nation’s treatment needs; however, free treatment for opportunistic infections—with the exception of tuberculosis—is not yet available. According to the Republican AIDS Centre, at the beginning of 2007, 40% of those in need were not receiving treatment. This is due, in part, to the limited availability of opiate substitution therapy (the programme runs as pilot since 2008 in three regions, only 118 people are getting treatment as of November 2012); a general lack of information on HIV and/or drug treatment options and adherence; a lack of trust in the healthcare system; and fear of discrimination and status disclosure.