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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

AIDS Bill Is Enforcement Nightmare

The Foreign Ministry, which has the unenviable task of drawing up a scheme to implement new parliamentary legislation which will require almost all long-term visitors to Russia to undergo AIDS testing, has declined to comment on the law, pointing out that until it is passed by the Federation Council and signed by President Boris Yeltsin, it remains hypothetical.

This is, strictly speaking, true. But given that an earlier, harsher version of the law -- which would have required all foreigners, including tourists, to be tested -- went through the Federation Council without a murmur and that this latest bill takes in all the amendments proposed by Yeltsin himself, it is only a matter of a very short time before it goes into the statute books and the hypothesis becomes a reality.

It is then that the Foreign Ministry's real headaches will begin. For while it was doubtless very easy for both houses of parliament and the president to approve such xenophobic legislation, putting it into practice will be another matter entirely.

Where, for instance, are the proposed tests to be carried out? The authorities have indicated in the past that they would accept some tests carried out abroad. If that is the case, how will they distinguish between the acceptable and the non-acceptable? And what checks can be made on the authenticity of medical test certificates? If the tests are to be carried out in Russia, who would finance them? And who would carry them out? How long would a certificate last? Would travelers require a new test each time they entered the country?

The bill indicates that those foreigners already living in Russia on a long-term basis will be exempt from tests, which would only apply to new applicants for visas of more than three months. But current residents would also apparently need to undergo a test when applying for visa extension or renewal.

These are just a few of the questions and contradictions that the Foreign Ministry will have to grapple with. It will be a long and very tiresome process. And to what end? Even if it succeeds in coming up with some applicable formula to weed them out, the expulsion of HIV-positive foreigners will have at best a negligible effect on the spread of AIDS in Russia.

If the authorities are serious about dealing with the problem, they should begin by raising public awareness through education about the spread of AIDS and practical ways to combat the disease. The huge amount of money that it would require to test foreigners could be so much better spent on campaigns to promote safe sex and, even more importantly, on providing hospitals and clinics with an adequate supply of disposable syringes and needles.