Civil Society Groups Lambast Russia's Position on OST in Face of HIV Crisis

Civil society groups from Europe and North America have sent an open letter to UNAIDS questioning if the agency will be taking Russia to task on its dangerous ban of opioid substitution therapy (OST) in the face of a national HIV crisis.

The letter, below, highlights the recent publication from Russia's Ministry of Health on its official position toward OST, an approach that the ministry deems to be non-evidence based and a potential cause of HIV among people who inject drugs in countries where it is implemented.

The number of HIV cases in Russia passed the 1 million mark earlier this year and are expected to rise exponentially in the coming years thanks to Russia's refusal to implement OST and support needle and syringe exchange programs, both of which have a proven track record in mitigating the spread of blood-borne viruses.

Russia's response to the spike in HIV cases among drug users is to try and subject this group to mandatory rehabilitation, something the country's director of the Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS) announced at the recent Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference held in Moscow. Civil society groups in another open letter last year to UNAIDS criticized the staging of this conference in a country that refuses to take an evidence-based approach to combating HIV.

Read the full letter here.