Until the mid-1990s, Russia and Eurasia had relatively few cases of HIV/AIDS. Today, however, these states are experiencing the highest rate of new HIV infections in the world. A report published by the Russia and Eurasia program for CSIS's HIV/AIDS task force highlighted the devastating consequences that this pandemic could have if it is left unchecked.
Effective public policy can make a difference. Failure to implement much needed policy reforms could result in political, economic, and security turmoil in the region. Optimistic figures from the World Bank estimate that by 2020, as many as 21,000 Russians per month could die due to HIV/AIDS and that the total HIV-infected population could reach 5.4 million individuals. Less optimistic projections estimate that, without preventative measures being taken, Russia will have over 14 million cases of HIV/AIDS by 2020 - more than 10% of the total population of the country. In Russia and Eurasia, the original explosion of infections was tied to drug abuse and intravenous drug users; now the epidemic is poised to expand into the general population at an alarming rate.
The Russia and Eurasia Program is expanding its work on the problem of HIV/AIDS in Russia. In conjunction with the CSIS HIV/AIDS task force, the Russia and Eurasia Program published a widely read report on the HIV/AIDS situation in Russia. In addition, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and in partnership with the CSIS Africa Program, South Asia Program, and China Program, the Russia and Eurasia Program is participating in an ambitious new project examining the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in second-wave countries. A course of surveys and assessments, strong cooperation with Russian-based NGOs, and an active working group have been used to raise awareness of the problem in the policy making circles of Russia. Current public policy decisions will have a profound effect on Russia in the future; the government's response to HIV/AIDS is certainly no exception. The cost to enact preventative measures now is much less than the crushing social and economic costs that could result from inaction.
HIV/AIDS related activities of the Russia and Eurasia Program have been enacted in several phases, with each yielding an assessment and comprehensive report. These are available from CSIS in both English and Russian versions. The first phase of the project dealt with an assessment of the magnitude of the problem. The second report was the product of a joint-task-force, and offers recommendations for public policy in dealing with HIV/AIDS in Russia.