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Social media star wants to wake up Russia on HIV

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Worried about AIDS rather than coronavirus: The film of a Russian youtubeur shone the spotlight on HIV in order to wake up the young generation on this disease which consumes Russia in the indifference of the authorities.

With his video “HIV in Russia, the epidemic we don’t talk about”, Iouri Doud, 33, collected more than 13 million views on YouTube in less than a week. And he reacted to politicians who were usually very discreet on the subject.

Social media star widely followed by young people, Doud is first known for his relaxed interviews with politicians and artists of all stripes.

He had recorded his first great success last year with an educational film on the history of the Stalin gulag, a theme largely overlooked in Russia. The video has more than 19.2 million views on YouTube.

Still in this educational logic, Doud this time tackles a largely taboo public health theme, detailing all aspects of HIV / AIDS: daily life of HIV-positive people, modes of contamination, therapies, prevention.

“People living with HIV in Russia are victims of discrimination all the time. We are ashamed of it, we flee from it, we disdain it,” said Iouri Doud in his video.

– 103,000 infected –

Tackling popular beliefs by recalling, for example, that mosquitoes and kisses do not pose a risk, he also calls on everyone to be tested, explaining the existence of saliva tests in pharmacies.

In Russia, more than 1.1 million people are living with HIV out of a population of 144.5 million. At least 300,000 people have died of AIDS since 1987 and the rate of spread of the disease remains very high.

“There were 103,000 new infections in 2018, compared to 6,200 in France. And these new cases are the result of a lack of prevention and information,” said Vadim Pokrovski, director of the Federal Center for AIDS.

“We do not do enough. And we must not only treat the sick,” said Vladimir Mayakovsky, director of an organization supporting HIV-positive people.

On social networks, comments are generally laudatory. “Where can we vote to show this film at school?” Writes Nadia Khiari, whose remark drew 29,000 “likes” on YouTube.

Another effect, in the days following the film’s publication on February 11, the number of AIDS-related searches in Russian on Google jumped: for the keywords “buy HIV test” by 350%.

– “Wrong way” –

Faced with this phenomenon, the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov judged that the video “deserved that we are interested”. The president of the Court of Auditors, Alexeï Koudrine, promised to assess the effectiveness of patient assistance.

Iouri Doud was also invited to Parliament to speak on prevention and his film was shown in the lower house, even if only a few deputies made the trip.

These reactions are all the more unusual since public policies in this area have been criticized by experts.

“In the minds of people who make decisions in Russia, HIV is anyway drug addicts and people who live” the wrong way “”, regrets Igor Ptcheline, head of the NGO fighting against AIDS “Chagui”.

Since 2016, several NGOs specializing in the fight against HIV have been classified as “foreign agents”, a controversial name which greatly hinders their work and fundraising.

Under Vladimir Putin, close to the Orthodox Church, conservative ideas were brought up to date, so that effective prevention measures have not been implemented, whether in drug addiction or sexuality . Information campaigns highlight abstinence more than condoms.

An article in the daily Vedomosti, entitled “Doud instead of the Ministry of Health”, therefore deemed the blogger “more effective” than the State.

“New people have gone to be screened. And there is even an interest among the decision-makers. That’s good!” Rejoices the researcher Vadim Pokrovski.

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