________________________________________________________________________ Explosion in syphilis infections in Russia sparks concern Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net Copyright ) 1997 Agence France-Presse MOSCOW (December 23, 1997 9:18 p.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - The skyrocketing growth in the number of syphilis cases in Russia has sparked serious concern among lawmakers and health officials who fear that if left unchecked, the disease could become a national tragedy. "It could become a problem for the whole of the Russian nation," said Aleftina Aparina, of the Committee for Children and Family Affairs in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament. "I am sure that even the ministry of health does not have an exact number because many people do not even know they are infected," she said, noting that syphilis was a especially major problem in Russia's northern regions. The disease was one of the first problems addressed by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin after the Russian revolution when it affected a huge percentage of the nation's population. Lenin defeated syphilis which became rare in Russia, but the last four years have seen it spread exponentially again. "The rate of the disease's spread is frightening," commented Eduard Sarkisov, member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. He said that in the past 10 years the number of cases reported annually had increased 40-fold. According to the Russian health ministry, some 450,000 cases were registered in 1997 alone, almost 200,000 more than in 1995. An even more disturbing trend cited by Aparina is that the victims of syphilis are getting younger. "Each year we register more and more cases where children under 14 are suffering from this decease," she said. Sarkisov blamed the spread of syphilis on loose morals promoted by the nation's broadcasters "When I come home after work, I see my underage son watching pornographic programs. They (the television stations) should be punished for that. They are only concerned with money. They are corrupting our people," he said. The Duma recently issued a decree criticising NTV commercial television for broadcasting a large number of erotic programs and calling for financial sanctions against the station. But more importantly, health officials blame economic hardship for the spread of the disease. According to Boris Andreyev, a doctor at Moscow's Botkinskaya hospital, for most Russians financial problems take precedence over health considerations. "Russians today have no time to think about hygiene and about their health, " he said. Andreyev also noted that fiscal problems meant that the government had little money to devote to fighting the problem. "In the early days of the Soviet era the state had programs targeting both syphilis and tuberculosis. (The government) even stipulated criminal measures against those who refused treatment," he said. "With the help of police, we could force an infected person to be treated, but now all we can do is tell them they have it," Andreyev said. Ultimately, Aparina said, it will take government money and a program aimed specifically at the nation's youth to slow the spread of syphilis and avert tragedy. "If the government does not take effective measures, only 54 percent of people now aged 16 will survive to their 64th birthday," she said.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Apr 13 2001 - 12:58:04 PDT