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Monday, June 19, 2006

Kremlin Spins All as Argument for Totalitarianism

Australian media reports on a documentary about HIV infection in Russia show the Kremlin's efforts to use such issues as HIV and Islamic terorrism as an argument for even more government power, when in fact the problems only exist because the government is far too powerful and incompetent and the problems only get worse and worse. The USSR tried this for years, spinning every fact as an argument in its favor no matter the consequences, until it simply disappeared.

This persuasive documentary about HIV infection in Russia shows how the fall of communism has come at a price: the growth of a pleasure-seeking economy afflicted with unemployment, corruption, prostitution and drugs, all of which have contributed to an HIV epidemic affecting a million people. Russia has the world's highest growth rate of the virus; up to 12 million Russians could be HIV positive by 2020.

The attitudes of police and politicians, along with Russia's limited health care and social services, are blamed for this situation. Moscow Mayor Yuri Lushov has banned needle-exchange programs because he believes needles lure people into addiction. Addicts hide needles in public places because they know they'll be arrested if caught with them. The government refuses anti-retroviral therapy for addicts and some specialists even welcome the HIV epidemic as a biological solution to a social problem.

It's a tragic, but familiar, story, told here through interviews with sex workers such as Oksana, a heroin addict who shares needles. "If you're different here, you're also bad," says the director of Medecins du Monde, Alexander Tsekhanovitch, who tries to encourage safer drug use among the mini-skirted women trawling the frosty streets of St Petersburg.

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