HIV dissidents in Russia

Tens of thousands of Russians are subscribed to online forums committed to rejecting mainstream scientific knowledge about HIV/AIDS and the Russian government has taken steps to ban this so-called denialism. Currently, only about a third of Russians diagnosed with the virus are taking steps to managing the progression of the disease through the use of antiretroviral therapy (ARTs). A key reason for such low intervention rates is the lack of outreach by the government to those afflicted with HIV/AIDS. Given that generally, the LGBT+ community has the highest risk of contracting HIV, it is not entirely surprising given the Russian government’s anti-gay policies that they are unwilling to intervene. This week’s readings directly tied homosexuality to modern-day Russianness. HIV prevalence which is often associated with the LGBT+ community can be interpreted as the loss of tradition, religious conviction and a general failure of true Russianness. To be gay is to not be Russian. One particular reading: Queer as Folklore from Plots Against Russia reimagined the rise in homosexuality as a literal virus; a virus that assaults the immune system of Russia. In my Moodle post, I spoke of the characterization of homosexuality as a virus, as a catchable, uncontrollable, and parasitic entity.  In this case, HIV is simply a proxy for the LGBT+ community. It’s a similar narrative to that of the US government in response to the US AIDS epidemic during the 1980s, some labelling it the “gay plague”. What is ironic, is that the Russian government is actively trying to stamp down on HIV denial rhetoric. That is mostly like due to the fact that many children have died because parents refuse to have their children treated. Similar to the crusade against homosexuality in Russia, it’s for the kids.

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