Eastern Europe is experiencing increased rates of HIV/AIDS, and the Russian Federation is among the countries with the most alarming case rate increases. Behavioural and biological studies demonstrate that the transmission of HIV in Russia is occurring as a result of injection drug use, homosexual, and heterosexual risk behaviours. Factors that promote risk and therefore enable HIV transmission in Russia parallel those found in other countries, including epidemics of other sexually transmitted infections, economic instability, poverty, and social factors such as gender roles. Research is urgently needed to better understand and forecast the HIV epidemic in Russia, as well as to develop effective interventions to prevent a Russian AIDS crisis.
PIP: This article reviews the evidence of an emerging AIDS crisis in Russia and highlights the urgent need for comprehensive HIV prevention efforts in Eastern Europe. It is apparent that there are several HIV epidemics in Russia. Epidemiological data can attest to the multiple modes of HIV transmission in the country, and particularly among young people engaging in heterogeneous patterns of risk behaviors. In addition, HIV genotype research confirms that multiple HIV epidemics are simultaneously emerging in the country. Such research also shows that complicated social forces are advancing HIV sub-epidemics. Enabling factors propagating HIV epidemics include biological and social co-factors, particularly drug use, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual mixing patterns, economic instability, gender roles, and poverty. Wide scale public health education and AIDS awareness campaigns, specialized prevention outreach, social marketing, risk reduction counseling, and prevention policy initiatives directed toward communities and population segments at highest risk for infection are recommended to help curb the HIV epidemic.