Russia reached a rather grim landmark earlier this year, marking its one-millionth citizen to receive a positive H.I.V. diagnosis, The New York Times reports. The virus, which can develop into AIDS, infects 1 percent of Russia's 143 million people, with local experts calling the situation an "epidemic" even as it is downplayed by government officials.
"This can already be considered a threat to the entire nation," said Vadim Pokrovsky, the head of Moscow's Federal AIDS Center. Pokrovsky estimated that 850,000 Russians have H.I.V., 220,000 have died since the late 1980s, and another 500,000 cases have gone undiagnosed. Heterosexual sex is poised to top intravenous drug use as the primary way of obtaining the infection in Russia.
There isn't likely to be change soon, either, with nongovernmental organizations aimed at combating H.I.V./AIDS being blackballed by the Justice Ministry. "Calling it an epidemic would be akin to admitting that the government let the problem get out of control over the past 30 years," she Dr. Tatiana N. Vinogradova, who works at an AIDS center in St. Petersburg. "This is Russia, so everything has to be top down to get anything done."
By comparison, more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with H.I.V., although the U.S. has a much larger population, at approximately 318.9 million. Russia, combined with South Africa, Nigeria, India, and Uganda, make up almost half of the new infections around the world.