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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

State Duma AIDS Bill Is Plain Wrong

Does Russia wish to become the only country in the world that tourists will not visit because they would first have to get an AIDS test? And when it comes to AIDS policy, do the deputies of the State Duma really think that they are right and the rest of the world is wrong?

It is not law yet, but it could be only a matter of time before the parliament's extraordinary AIDS bill demanding mandatory tests for all foreigners who enter Russia and for many Russian citizens becomes the law of the land.

There are so many reasons why this draft law is wrong that it is hard to know where to start. But the fact that it would flagrantly breach human rights seems as good a place as any -- mandatory testing for AIDS has been acknowledged as a serious violation of individual rights all over the developed world.

Deputies were also frighteningly candid in their assertions that AIDS is a problem caused by foreigners, not Russians. The law they plan to pass only confirms a deep ignorance about the nature of the disease, as well as of the extent of its spread within Russia. The official figures of fewer than 1,000 HIV positive cases in Russia are recognized to be absurdly low.

One reason for that is that AIDS carriers are effectively treated as criminals in Russia, forced to sign affidavits that can expose them to prosecution, forced to leave their jobs and ostracized from the community.

The low standard of hygiene at many hospitals has also created a risk of infection from the very disease being tested for. Small wonder that people do not want to volunteer for testing. The authorities should listen to their own health officials, who concur that mandatory testing is impractical, will not stop AIDS and will waste money that should be spent on education and on the wholesale promotion of safe sex practices.

It is now up to the Federation Council and President Boris Yeltsin to decide whether this draft becomes law. As they decide they should think about the following: Do they really want to kill Russia's tourist trade? There are few people in the world who want to see this country so badly that they would take an AIDS test here just to do so.

Do they want to put another barrier in the way of new foreign investment? For businessmen considering a visit to scout out new prospects in Russia, the news that they must first take an AIDS test may tell them all they care to know about the investment climate here.

Above all, do they really want to paint Russia in the eyes of the world as xenophobic, backward and irrational?