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Russian Orthodox bishop tells government commission AIDS must be fought with ‘morals,’ not harm-reduction programs

A Russian Orthodox bishop, Arkady Shatov, declared at a government commission on healthcare today that the country must battle an ongoing AIDS epidemic by promoting "healthy moral values."

Speaking about AIDS, the Russian Orthodox Church's representative said, "This disease, unlike any other, has social and moral—or rather immoral—causes." The bishop called for abstinence and declared that a person in life "must show love to their family and work, show patriotism, faith, and intellectual activity."

“Of course, we're very happy that our country doesn't accept so-called harm-reduction programs, like the free distribution of contraceptives and methadone clinics, and we understand that we need different methods and programs here,” the bishop said.


In Russia, HIV rates stabilized in the early 2000s, but they began to rise again dramatically in 2007. As numbers of HIV/AIDS cases rose over the past year, Russia has also witnessed soaring prices for treatment, and patients have struggled to get access to pills on time. On top of this, the Russian government has been attempting to phase out imports to the Russian medical market and replace them with domestically-made products—a process ridden with bureaucratic mistakes, medical risks for patients, and new hurdles for both suppliers and customers.

Between the early 1990s and July 2015, almost 950,000 individuals were registered as HIV-positive in Russia. This includes 192,000 people who died of the disease. In the first half of 2015, 41,707 people were registered as HIV-positive. This means there are 200 new HIV cases every day this year in Russia. At this rate, by 2016, there will be more than 1 million HIV-positive individuals in Russia.

For more about Russia's HIV and AIDS epidemic, see our special report: Awash in AIDS: How Russia’s economic crisis is skyrocketing HIV infections again