SEVASTOPOL, Crimea (AP) — Every morning, Sergei Kislov takes the bus to the rundown outskirts of this port city for the methadone doses that keep him off heroin without suffering withdrawal. Now that Russia has taken over Crimea, the trips are about to end.
"For a month and a half I won't be able to sit or sleep or eat," Kislov said. "It's a serious physical breakdown."
Across the Black Sea peninsula, some 800 heroin addicts and other needle-drug users take part in methadone programs — seen as an important part of efforts to curb HIV infections by taking the patients away from hypodermic needles that can spread the AIDS-causing virus.
But Russia, which annexed Crimea in mid-March following a referendum held in the wake of Ukraine's political upheavals, bans methadone, claiming most supplies end up on the criminal market. The ban could undermine years of efforts to reduce the spread of AIDS in Crimea; some 12,000 of the region's 2 million people are HIV-positive, a 2012 UNICEF survey found.
After years of rapid growth in the infection rate, the Ukrainian Health Ministry reported the first decline in 2012.
Many have attributed that decline to methadone therapy. According to the International HIV/AIDS Alliance of Ukraine, which helps fund many local projects with money from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, drug injectors accounted for 62 percent of new HIV infections in Ukraine in 2002. By 2013, that number was down to 33 percent.
In Russia, which recommends that addicts quit cold turkey, HIV is spreading rapidly. According to the Russian Federal AIDS Center, the number of people registered as infected increased by nearly 11 percent in 2013....>>