Russia is winning the new cold war race to end HIV for good.
In an odd piece of agitprop whose headline reads like an Onion article — yet appears to be endorsed by the Kremlin — a Russian study actually blames condoms for the spread of HIV. The Russian Institute for Strategic Research (RISR), which was set up by the Kremlin in 2012, presented a report on Tuesday to Moscow’s city council that casts doubt over the validity of well documented statistics showing the spread of HIV in Russia.
It’s worth noting that one of stated goals of the RISR is “Family-based solutions as a strategy for overcoming depopulation.” Which is perhaps why it’s not a surprise to see that the study’s authors alluded to “traditional values” being the route to stopping the spread of HIV, blaming promiscuity and homosexuality for infections.
Tatyana Guzenkova, deputy head of the organization, presented the report, as according to the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant. It is also not a stretch to imagine this being used by the Kremlin to buttress its ongoing hostility towards Russia’s LGBT movement.
Like most things under the Putin regime, the RISR is hard to see as anything but government loyalists, especially because internal dispute about the study was quite vocal. The head of the Federal Center for fighting AIDS, Vadim Pokrovsky, for example, stressed the importance of focusing on condoms to reduce the spread of HIV.
As with most things that generate from Russia these days, the report invites more questions than it answers, something not uncommon under totalitarian regimes. It reminds one of Gertrude Stein’s recorded 1934 speech at Columbia University, where she protested: “History teaches what history teaches.” (You can listen to Stein’s astonishing 1934 recording online, titled: “If I told him—a completed portrait of Picasso”). Stein begins with, "If I told him, would he like it? If I told him, would Napoleon?" Napoleon, like Putin, apparently would not. Her speech was an ardent defense of questions, in an era when not enough people asked any. Not unlike the world we find ourselves in now.
And if the Putin regime really believes this theory, they could save a sizable chunk of their Gross Domestic Product now being spent on military expansion and engage in the world’s largest dropping of water-filled condoms on his enemies.