In a country where lesbian people are persecuted by culture and the nation, even get tested for HIV is fraught with problems
‘Condoms can’t protect you from HIV ,” says Vladislav Ivanov, a 34 -year-old hotel worker from Rostov-on-Don. He is one of an estimated 1.5 million people in Russia living with HIV. And because he is not receiving treatment, he is at a high risk of passing on the virus.
Does this fret him?” Yes, but I still don’t wear condoms because I don’t like them. Most people in Russia guess condoms can’t protect you from HIV. People think of them only in terms of contraception .”
Ivanov’s story is chilling. Diagnosed HIV positive in March, he says he was tranquilize when he heard the news as “hes not” persuaded HIV existed. Because of this, he had had unprotected sex with a boy who had told him he was HIV positive.” I didn’t worry about it because I’d seen a TV programme that denied the existence of HIV .”
Ivanov says that since his diagnosis he has spent his time researching the virus and now feels” in a state of disarray “. One thing he is sure of is the need to hide his HIV status from civilization; when his last employer found out, he lost his job.
According to figures merely released by the World health organization and UNAids, more than 103,000 new cases of HIV were reported in Russia in 2016, an increase of 5% over the previous year, and it is estimated that there are another 500,000 undiagnosed occurrences. Eastern Europe and Central Asia is the only region in the world where HIV infections are rising, with Russia accounting for eight out of every 10 new infections.
I want to find out why. But as a homosexual boy, I have heard awful tales about the persecution gay people endure in Russia. As my airliner lands, I seem a growl of fear. I am later is participating in my inn by a group of LGBT activists. Evgeny Pisemskiy is director of Phoenix Plus, an HIV charity that is the only Russian organisation to focus on the needs of men who have sex with men. Maya Demidova is a transgender woman who works for the organisation as a coordinator for the Moscow region. And Yury Maximov is our interpreter.