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Russian Government Drafts Bill To Fight AIDS Denial

A mobile HIV testing unit near Uralmash station in the Yekaterinburg subway
A mobile HIV testing unit near Uralmash station in the Yekaterinburg subway

The Russian government has drafted legislation that would make it illegal to urge people not to seek treatment for AIDS or to deny the existence of HIV, the virus that causes the disease.

The Health Ministry submitted the draft amendments to the State Duma on April 16.

The legislature is expected to begin consideration of the bill during its fall 2018 session and, if passed, the measures would come into force on January 1, 2019.

The so-called AIDS-dissenter legislation was apparently drafted in the wake of several cases over the last few years in which parents allegedly withheld treatment from their HIV-infected children, often because of religious considerations.

In September 2017, a 10-year-old girl in St. Petersburg died of AIDS, although doctors had been urging her parents for years to have her treated.

In April 2017, a 3-year-old girl in Tyumen died of AIDS complications. Criminal charges were filed against her mother after a medical commission determined that proper treatment would have significantly extended the child's life.

In 2014, a 10-year-old boy in Chelyabinsk Oblast died after his parents stopped his anti-HIV medications.

The daily Kommersant reported on April 16 that similar fatal cases were reported in five Russian regions in 2017 and that a 6-year-old boy died in Krasnodar Krai earlier this year.

The nongovernmental organization Patient Control runs a group on the social-media site VKontakte called HIV/AIDS Dissidents And Their Children.

In four years, the page has documented 84 fatal cases with 17 involving children, activist Yulia Vereshchagina told Kommersant.

Under the Health Ministry's proposed legislation, it would be an administrative offense to urge people to refuse medical intervention in cases of HIV infection.

Individuals denying the existence of HIV would face fines of up to 3,000 rubles ($48), while government officials could be fined up to 10,000 rubles ($160) and legal entities up to 50,000 rubles ($800).

The draft legislation was created within the framework of the government's strategic plan for combating the spread of HIV through 2020.

The Health Ministry puts the HIV-positive population in Russia at 860,000, but some nongovernmental groups estimate the real number is around 1.5 million.

With reporting by TASS, RIA, Komsomolskaya Pravda, and Kommersant
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