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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MAILBOX: We Can Fight AIDS, But We Must Do It Now

In response to "The Siberian Side of AIDS," April 29.


In addition to the outbreak in Irkutsk - as described in the aforementioned article - HIV/AIDS has now reached epidemic levels in many regions of Russia. And the outbreak is fueled almost entirely by drug use. What can be done?

Providing drug users with clean needles through syringe exchange programs dramatically decreases the spread of HIV and other blood-borne illnesses. Offering drug users methadone treatment is also an effective strategy.

In 1998, the Open Society Institute together with MSF-Holland, MDM-France and the Health Ministry began a partnership to develop needle exchange programs. Over 190 participants from more than 60 cities received training, and now there are 29 programs operating throughout the country.

The programs provide drug users with the necessary tools and information to reduce drug-related harm. Concerns have been expressed that these activities increase drug use, but ample research shows these fears to be unfounded. For many drug users, harm reduction programs are an important first step toward improved health behavior and the only way to prevent the spread of HIV.

There is now a small window of opportunity to act before the HIV epidemic in Russia outpaces the capacity to control it. But the projects OSI currently help are not enough to halt the region's tide of HIV infections.

To do so, more national decision-makers, foreign aid agencies, and non-governmental organizations must provide financial and policy support for pragmatic harm reduction strategies. The discussions for a World Bank loan in the area of HIV/AIDS is a crucial beginning, but dealing effectively with the epidemic requires significant regional, federal and international commitment.

We have the capability: Needle exchanges and methadone therapy are effective public health interventions. What we don't have is time.

Nina Schwalbe

program director

Public Health Program

Open Society Institute

Assistance Foundation


Moral Courage

In response to dual comment "Who Crucified Jesus of Nazareth?" April 28.


Thank you for attempting to clarify the age-old question of who crucified Jesus of Nazareth. The author of the second comment is correct in both directing the reader to further investigate the Bible and going beyond legal culpability to focus on moral responsibility.

The author of the first article is sadly ignorant of the issues presented in the Bible and is just as guilty of selecting and interpreting the biblical texts to suit his own ends, which is characteristic of the proponents of anti-Semitism. Regrettably, his priest gives no answers, other than the hope of "rewriting" the account. We all know what happens when people try to rewrite history.

The author of the second article raises the question to a higher plane, correctly interpreting the "plan" and viewing matters from the perspective of the chief protagonist - Jesus - namely, that he freely died for our sins.

A careful reading of the Bible reveals that no one killed Jesus. He voluntarily offered himself up as a sacrifice and he was in control of his life to the very last moment when he yielded his spirit. He foretold his control over his destiny according to the Gospel of John (10:17-18): "I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down on my own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again." Everyone was surprised that he expired so quickly. It wasn't because the soldiers exceeded the norm; it was because he had finished all he had set out to do.

The early Christian church understood this well and did not lay blame on the Jews. This would have been absurd since they were Jews themselves!

The medieval church ignored both the letter and the spirit of Scriptures. For non-religious reasons, restrictions were imposed on the Jews, and the Bible was misused to justify them. Pope John Paul II had the courage and humility to publicly ask forgiveness for the deplorable acts and attitudes of his constituents. It is to be hoped that other Christian leaders will also admit their error and repent.

Orest Holovaty, Ph.D


Mistreated Mail

In response to "Postal Service a Dead-Letter Disappointment," April 14.


I am an American working in the Kuzbass district with a Russian university. I had an encounter with the postal service that still leaves me disappointed.

I was in the United States and needed to send some supplies to use in my work with the university: some music CDs, some software CDs, videotapes, and a language course. I sent these in one package from California as well as a second package with some clothing. Both were shipped on the same day.

Because CDs are fragile, I wrapped them in some clothing: a pair of trousers and two shirts. I filled the hollow spaces in the boxes with Los Angeles Dodger baseball caps to be given away as souvenirs. One box arrived without incident; I simply went to the post office and received it (it had not been opened).

But the box with the CDs arrived some four months later. It had been opened, and each music CD container obviously had been opened. Some of the video cassettes apparently had been viewed, because they were not rewound to start at the beginning. The shirts, the pair of trousers, the baseball caps and the language course were missing.

Customs had placed a 3,200-ruble import duty on the shipment, which I had to pay before I could see the box. I wrote a letter to the directors of the postal service and customs office about this incident, but I never received any reply.

Perhaps the Russian government should get out of the postal service and let it be operated by an individual firm on a commercial enterprise basis.

John C. Jones