Demand for HIV testing in Russia increases by 5,500 per cent in less than a week. Here’s why

Russia: Demand for HIV testing up 5,500 per cent in under a week

Russia has seen an explosion in interest in HIV testing after the release of a viral YouTube documentary about the virus.

Yuri Dud, the popular Russian YouTuber, released HIV in Russia: An Epidemic That is Not Talked About on February 11.

TJournal reports that by February 12, Google searches for HIV testing had increased by 5,500 per cent compared to the previous seven-day average.

Officials also reported seeing a boom in interest, with Denis Gusev, head physician of the St. Petersburg Center for the Prevention and Control of AIDS and Infectious Diseases, telling Open Media that twice as many people were willing to be tested anonymously between February 11 to 13.

The two-hour film has been viewed almost 13 million times since its release, garnering more than 90,000 comments.

One of these was from a clinician who said that his first patient of the day was a man who had decided to get tested after watching Dud’s film.

“It’s amazing,” they said.

More than one million people in Russia are living with HIV.

The number of people living with HIV in Russia passed one million during the first half of 2019, according to Interfax, representing 1 percent of the population.

Dud’s film begins by listing a number of key statistics such as this, and the fact that about 100 people die from AIDS in Russia every day.

By interviewing a number of people living with HIV and their partners, the film discusses a number of issues relevant to the community, including serodiscordant (mixed-status) relationships, children living with HIV, and the links between the virus and drug use.

It also touches upon the silence coming from Russian authorities.

There have been more HIV transmissions during the last eight years of Putin’s rule than in the previous 25.

Vladimir Putin hasn’t mentioned HIV since the start of his third presidential term in 2012, according to the sociologist Iskander Yasaveyev.

He had previously spoken about HIV as an “urgent” crisis during his first and second terms (2000-2008).

Writing in The Independent, Yasaveyev noted that of the 1.4 million HIV cases have been registered in Russia since 1987, more than half of that number were recorded after 2012.

Yasaveyev said that “Putin’s inattention to the problem is one of the factors contributing to the epidemic”.

Dud’s film however, might prove crucial in changing this attitude of silence.

Russia’s parliament reportedly organised a screening of the documentary to mark Valentine’s Day on February 14.

Two days later, on February 16, the parliament’s financial chamber announced a review into how it supports Russians living with HIV.