Registered HIV cases
Estimated HIV cases
980,000(range: 840 000 – 1 200 000)***
Newly registered cases in 2012
* Federal State Statistics Service, 2013
** Federal AIDS Centre, November 2012
*** 'Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic', UNAIDS, August 2010
As the largest country in the world, Russia stretches from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, spanning two continents and sharing its borders with 14 countries: Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China and North Korea. After centuries of tsarist and imperial rule, Russia became the leading republic of the former Soviet Union in 1922, creating an empire spanning nearly 22.5 million km2. When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, Russia was established as its successor state, designating Moscow as the capital city. The majority of the population is Russian with sub-populations of Tatars, Ukrainians and many other ethnic groups. The official language is Russian, but 140 other languages are spoken throughout the country. Russia has a variety of religious followings, including Islam, Judaism and Buddhism; however, the primary religion remains Russian Orthodox.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia experienced severe social and economic turmoil, but has since grown to be a major world power. Holding a vast array of natural resources—including oil, coal and natural gas—it is one of five recognised states that possess a nuclear arsenal. The country is set up as a constitutional democracy, with the president wielding far more power than the legislative branch. President Vladimir Putin was inaugurated in May 2012.
Today, the HIV epidemic has established a secure foothold in Russia, which has the highest growth rate in the world with more than 1% of the population estimated to be already infected. Although the epidemic is concentrated among injecting drug users, there has been a sharp increase in the number of cases attributed to heterosexual transmission. Russia has a very high level of drug use, sex work, human trafficking and migration, all of which play a major role in spreading the virus.
Although the government guarantees a wide range of free services for those living with HIV, these services are compromised by an inadequate quality, a lack of confidentiality, and widespread discrimination and stigma. Furthermore, the Russian government’s conservative nature makes lobbying for progressive prevention programmes and treatment services a difficult task for non-governmental organisations in the region. The insensitive treatment of drug users in the country was sadly illustrated in December 2006, when a fire at a drug-treatment hospital killed 45 women who were trapped behind blocked emergency exits and barred windows.