Specialists of the Public Health and Social Development Foundation “FOCUS-MEDIA” suppose a growth of HIV-positive people in Russia by the end of 2020 because of lack of prevention work in risk groups that is connected with the new COVID19 pandemia.
“Isolation measures introduced in connection with dissemination of coronavirus certainly influence quality of prevention programs focused on containment of HIV-infection. Full-fledged screening is not done, new cases are not identified, full-fledged prevention work has stopped. We have to stop our work in schools and do prevention only with our subscribers in social networks. It is very hard to evaluate a quality of the on-line interventions; it is really difficult to replace live human experience with on-line communications.
We apprehend a rise of the HIV cases when we come out of this period and get back to normal life due to lack of quality prevention work now. By the end of the year we will see what the growth of HIV-infection would be – said Ekaterina Artemenko, FOCUS-MEDIA Project Manager.
She explained that coronavirus infection fundamentally different from HIV by ways of transmission and the danger of HIV is in sexual and intravenous way of transmission and long period of manifestation. Contagiousness of COVID19 is higher than HIV due to its airborne way of transmission but mortality is lower.
“It may seem that people have been living with HIV for years and that 300 thousand people have died from it in 30 years, and that’s not a big deal. While from COVID-19, mortality is not very large, but at the same time, it scares people. But there is coronavirus today, and tomorrow it will not be, and HIV infection has been in the country for more than 30 years, and, unfortunately, this epidemic does not stop, but only grows.
HIV infection is a chronic disease, and today it is incurable, and our task is to prevent the growth of new cases. Therefore, we consider it important to constantly remind ourselves that HIV infection has not disappeared. And now, due to the coronavirus and the abundance of various information in the media about it, people can lose their vigilance and believe that HIV infection compared to COVID-19 is just a runny nose that can be cured,” said Artemenko.
“Specialists are also afraid of increased stigmatization of COVID-infected people in the society, as it was and, unfortunately, there are still HIV-infected people. “The stigmatization of people with COVID is already observed in the world. For example, now it is often possible to meet a request in social networks to upload names of people infected with a new coronavirus by name and address. People on the street treat each other with great distrust,” said Artemenko.
At the same time, according to the expert, the audience’s attention to coronavirus infection in social networks is declining. “At the beginning of the period of self-isolation, we built our work in an online format, promoting the idea that it is important to stay at home. The Champions (young faciltators) shot videos about COVID-19 and preventative measures, but recently the number of views has been noticeable decreased. This topic is already starting to bother users of social networks, and we plan to return to work with our audience on HIV infection. We must not forget about existing socially dangerous infections, including tuberculosis, hepatitis. Their course in society may be aggravated because we stopped paying due attention to them during a pandemic,” added Artemenko.
REFERENCE: The FOCUS-MEDIA Foundation has been implementing an interactive training program “Journey4Life” in Russia since 2017. The purpose of this program is to reduce the risky behavior of young people through personal development and leadership development with an emphasis on the prevention of smoking, HIV infection, sexually transmitted infections, maintaining reproductive health and combating any form of violence.
Within the framework of the project, young leaders, having passed training, become Champions4life – role models for youth. They conduct a dialogue with the guys on topics of interest to them from the standpoint of “peer to peer.” In the interactive classes, the Champions of the project tell young people about safe behavior in the modern world, about friendship and relationships, about infections and much more, so that young people can choose safer behaviors based on reliable information.
Every year, the program “Journey4Life” covers up to 5 thousand people, trains and supports the work of Champions4Life teams in 8 regions.
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