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U.S. Must Act Decisively To Address Unfolding HIV Epidemic In Russia, Passage Of Controversial Anti-Gay Legislation

“Bravely crusading against Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay law, the U.S. head of state has picked two openly gay athletes as part of a team of U.S. delegates travelling to the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014,” Joseph Charlton writes in an editorial in The Independent’s “Independent Voices” blog. “Sadly, it is a gesture of defiance laughably incommensurate with the human rights crisis currently unfolding in Russia,” he states, noting, “The country elected to host the next Olympic Games is quietly spiraling into a country-wide HIV crisis and its president’s recently passed anti-gay legislation has just made things exponentially worse.” He adds, “To make matters even worse, Putin’s controversial anti-NGO law has made it increasingly difficult for charities working within Russia to fight HIV.”

Noting “HIV is spreading five times faster in Russia than the global average,” Charlton continues, “In a country where HIV is already rampant, and predicted to get worse, the Putin administration has ensured that it is considerably harder for Russian citizens to know how to protect themselves from the virus, or indeed how to seek treatment.” He writes, “Russia is facing a human rights catastrophe with the potential of becoming a quiet genocide as a result of government indifference … which renders the United States’ boast of a homosexual envoy to next year’s Olympics the soft power swindle of the year.” He concludes, “In 1964 South Africa was banned from the competition for apartheid and the country did not compete again until the 1992 Barcelona Games. Now is the time for similar decisive action” (12/18).