Russia Still Doesn’t Have An AIDS Apocalypse

The Guardian writes:

Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the federal Aids centre in Moscow, predicted this month that at least two million Russians are likely to be officially registered as HIV-positive within five years, and a total of three million will have the virus.

All pretty worrying, except when we stop to consider that he also said the following – in 2002:

We’re talking about one-to-two million infected now, and in 2005, we could be talking about five-million being infected, and these are realistic, even conservative figures.

In reality, as of 2015, around 0.6% of the Russian population is officially registered as HIV positive. This is probably fairly comprehensive, since around 20-25 million people (one sixth of the population) are tested for it every year; though it should be noted that the unofficial figure is estimated to be around 50-100% higher. Even so, while that’s pretty bad by industrialized country standards, of course – about 3-10x higher per capita than in West European countries, twice higher than in the US, and about the same as in Ukraine and Estonia – but is nowhere close to the cataclysmic levels you see in Sub-Saharan Africa. The alarmist articles that you see and have been seeing in the press since about 2000 about millions and even tens of millions of Russians succumbing to AIDS in the next X years are fantastic in the literal sense of the word.

The reality is that in Russia, as in the rest of the ex-Soviet world, AIDS is primarily driven by injecting drug users (IDUs). This is unlike in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where transmission is primarily sexual, whose particular virulence there is probably due to its specific environment (cultural acceptance of soft polygamy, widespread malnourishment/compromised immune systems, and states too fiscally weak to support mass antiretroviral therapy). Hence the complete failure of models that relied on applying SSA HIV dynamics to Russia at predicting the course of the epidemic there. The graph below is from a 2006 report (pp.56) that collated all of the most high profile projections. The most pessimistic projection, that by Ruhl et al., featured Pokrovsky as a coauthor, incidentally, while the other highly pessimistic estimate came from Nicholas Eberstadt, an AEI demographer who has always been extremely bearish on Russia’s demographic prospects.


I copied down the most important graphs from that report in this old post. In short, more realistic modeling that treats IDUs as the main driver and doesn’t foresee any major deviations from current sexual and drug usage preferences from today’s norms sees a rapid rise in infection rates throughout the 2010s, peaking around 2020, but never reaching much more than 1% of the population even at its peak, followed by a steady decline reaching an asymptote at around 0.5% of the population (note that this assumes no decline of Russia’s huge problems with injecting drug usage which is likely very pessimistic).

This process has “momentum,” on account of the relatively huge numbers of IDUs in Russia, and is very difficult to stop. But the chances it will spread to the general population to any degree – i.e., to people who don’t have first-order sexual relations with IDUs – is all but zero. And this is indeed what we are seeing happen.

The actual trends are closely tracking another model, the TFRI, as well as of an original model to the cited report (pp.78):


This is not to say that Russia’s “conservative” approach to fighting AIDS is without fault, nor that people like Pokrovsky have no right to make a din over it in the media (as he has in fact been doing for the past two decades). It is virtually certain that avoiding the government funding needle exchanges causes more harm than good, though its worth noting that syringes can be freely bought at any well-stocked pharmacy (though, of course, heroin addicts are not known for their high future time orientations). Methadone treatment is a much more questionable case, there being a legitimate debate over its efficacy; it is more addictive even than heroin. Treatment isn’t a problem, even if prevention is. There is near universal access to anti-retrorival therapy amongst registered HIV positive people.

The Orthodox Church’s “malign” influence on this issue is typically exaggerated; for instance, it does not oppose condom use. It is not at all clear to me to what extent progressive attacks on the “conservative” approach are merited. One of the root problems is that so many people feel so despondent or reckless that they are getting addicted to hard drugs. Religion and/or sports – the current emphasis – can indeed in many cases offer an alternative. Society has indeed become less favorably disposed to homosexuality in the past decade, in large part due to state policy. One can say this promotes “ignorance.” But it’s also a fact that HIV spreads much more easily via anal sex, and if it becomes less accepted as a result of changes in social mores, well, that statistically means fewer infections. Both at the national level (in Russia, as well as in Ukraine) and at the international level (they might take the anti-progressiveness a notch to far but the prevalence of AIDS is near zero in the Arab world) it is pretty clear that all else equal – i.e. adjusting for human capital, etc. – it is the more conservative/religious regions that have fewer problems with AIDS in the first place.

And I’m sure it’s possible to come up with plenty of counter-arguments to the above. But that’s not the main point, which is that at the end of the day, what we are ultimately dealing with here is not some kind of runaway pandemic that will result in SSA-level infections rates “in a few years” but a very much epidemic that will burn fiercely in affected communities (primarily IDUs and their close sexual partners) but remains contained in the IDU-sphere and peaks around 2020 and then declines. Likewise the real debate is not about how long it is before Russia collapses from AIDS (and brain drain, and Eurabia, and the Yellow Peril, and…) but whether the epidemic peaks at, say, 1% of the population, or 1.5% of the population, and whether it happens in 2018 or 2022. It’s a lot less fun than constructing apocalyptic scenarios, sure, but it’s also more realistic.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. One of the reasons why I’m an AGW agnostic is that I’m old enough to remember the initial wave of HIV hysteria. “Science” told the world that AIDS was everyman’s disease. Turned out to be nothing of the sort.

  2. They didn’t want to admit gays were more susceptible for obvious political reasons.

    The ice caps are melting, California’s getting hit with a drought, and weather patterns all over the place are behaving strangely. I know what I believe.

  3. I know that the Earth has warmed in the last few decades. What I’m agnostic about is the cause. It would probably take years of immersion in this topic to form an independent opinion about the cause. I haven’t done that. And I don’t trust scientific consensus about politically-charged topics. The HIV-is-everyman’s-disease story is one reason for this distrust, the race-is-a-social-construct story is another. And let’s not forget Freudianism. It was mainstream only a few decades ago.

  4. Because most of the year-round ice in the world does seem to be retreating, I can’t deny that warming has taken place, and I used to be a whole-hearted believer in the claim that global warming is man-made.

    I got on the bandwagon after watching Guy McPherson give one of his speeches. While I didn’t believe his outlandish claims, I did become an AGW believer after I later saw photos of the arctic from year to year. After all, we have increased the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere, right?

    Well, yeah, from 0.025 percent to about 0.043 percent. This means that carbon dioxide is less than one twentieth of one percent of our atmosphere. Methane, set to end life on Earth, or so I’m told, is about one five thousandths of a percent of the atmosphere. I’m no scientist, but those seem like miniscule amounts of those gases. I thought CO2 was at least one or two percent. Well, it took only a moment to correct that misconception.

    I’m still an advocate for reducing emissions, though, as well as for other efforts to clean our environment. Perhaps if the global warming crowd convinces enough people to care, we might find alternatives to fossil fuels, which are running out anyway, especially oil.

    Speaking of McPherson, you really should go watch a couple of his talks on Youtube. If the subject matter were not so dire, you’d laugh at all the absurd things he says. He claims that lots of methane is about to escape the ground and oceans of the newly defrosted arctic and heat up the earth by ten to sixteen degrees Celsius. That latter number translates into a smooth twenty nine degrees Fahrenheit. He even raises the possibility of Earth turning into Venus. He claims there’s nothing we can do about it, but for some reason he really likes spending time away from his wife to go tell small crowds of people at universities about the impending methane apocalypse, and about the evils of the patriarchy, of course.

    Donations, particularly frequent flier miles, are greatly appreciated.

  5. Anonymous says


    Since Russia is a Brics member, maybe some Russian diplomat could check how Brazil have been dealing with AIDS in the last two decades and maybe borrow some ideas from the Brazillian policies. AIDS was a huge problem here in the 90’s, but our government was pretty sucessful in reducing the number of cases.Brazil has a lot of problems, but its policies on AIDS are among the best in the world.

  6. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount relative to the amount of oxygen and nitrogen to trap heat.

    I will freely admit there are guys arguing it’s an even bigger deal than it is, or that there are people who want to use it as an excuse to flog their favorite social programs or go after suburbanites for not wanting to live in Manhattan.

    Things can be true even if unpleasant people say they are, and you don’t have to sign on to the rest of the Left program; political programs are done by consensus to build up a coalition anyway. They don’t have all that much to do with the real world.

  7. Immigrant from former USSR says

    Recent arrests of 10 members of FIFA [International Football (i.e. soccer) Association] is attributed by El-Murid, ,
    to the USA’s intent to “reveal” their being corrupted by Putin.
    Characteristically, the arrest by Swiss authorities was done by the request of the USA, along with the request to extradite them to the USA.
    The story is paralleled by El-Murid to the arrest of Strauss-Khan, with his subsequent loss of the bid for the presidency of France,
    I have no doubts that assignment of the location of World Cup was and always will be accompanied by some or other bribes, including by Russia (2018) and by Qatar (2022).
    El-Murid opines that those arrests are signals to Russian comprador elites to “extradite” Putin,
    to overthrow him, in exchange for the promise not to eliminate them.
    The values of any promises of that kind can be clearly seen on the examples of Mubarak and of Kaddafi, but the deep-seated desire to trust those promises is also seen clearly on the same examples. See Pasternak’s

    Столетье с лишним — не вчера,
    А сила прежняя в соблазне
    В надежде славы и добра
    Глядеть на вещи без боязни.

    By no means I (I.f.f.U.) am a fun of the current President of Russia.

  8. Anonymous says

    In terms of an epidemic of a dread infectious disease, 0.6% of the population – which must equate to at least 1% of the sexually active population, is a high and ‘unacceptable’ level of infection.
    For example, such a prevalence rate must mean that every Russian must know of an HIV sufferer.

  9. Immigrant from former USSR says

    If anybody has any positive illusions about present day Russian leadership, he(she) is welcome to read
    I have no idea about the veracity of the statements there; they just look plausible to me.

    However, I do not have any illusions that American rulers of Russia will be any better.
    The experience of robbery of Russia by American-advised (Larry Summers et al)
    Eltsyn’s government and cronies, delicately called “privatization”,
    made me dropping the illusions about the latter.

  10. Yevardian says

    Anyone remember Thabo Mbeki denying AID’s existed, after two close colleagues and Mandela’s son had already died of it? Or the kleptomaniac woman health minister who promoted an industrial solvent and later “traditional remedies” as a cure? Or the later ANC recognition and funding of actual witch-doctors, with the consequent rise in Muti – illegal trade in human organs for “medicine”? Or that a majority of South Africans believe sex with a virgin can cure AIDs? (resulting in mass numbers of child-rape?)
    Or when Mbeki tried to destroy (openly polygamous) Jacob Zuma with a (almost certainly false) rape trial, where Zuma’s recollection of his sexual exploits with a HIV carrier; asserted “but I took a shower afterwards”?
    There are plenty of reasons for southern Africa’s AIDs epidemic, most of them self-inflicted by truly awful government.

    PS. bunch of global-warming-hoax commenters again. As even the mainstream is starting to realise the American colossus is crumbling, we’re not going to here about environmental disaster for a long time. AK might as well write something on it here as no one else will. Has Putin or any other major Russian addressed this issue? Putin has said he’s genuinely committed to species protection but I don’t know if that’s just PR.

  11. Anatoly Karlin says

    For example, such a prevalence rate must mean that every Russian must know of an HIV sufferer.

    No, it doesn’t.

    The epidemic is highly clustered amongst IDUs, and to a lesser extent, sex workers. Most people don’t rotate in those spheres.

  12. I’ll use the opportunity to post this argument about anthropogenic climate change


    It goes contrary to both the mainstream and A. Karlin’s view, and comes from someone who, by his CV, should understand the topic. The combination of all those elements makes these expositions recommendable, regardless whether for laughs or lucidity.


    Yes, the 1% rate is too high, esp. for a communicable disease, like HIV. It can spread quickly to 20 or 50% or 100% within a few decades.

    Secondly, the word “still” in the title is rather inappropriate. It suggests that the author wants the HIV apocalypse. I know he does not, but it is just the way it is written. “Still” is used in the negative sense, such as a mother to a child “It is 3 PM and you still did not each lunch”, meaning she wants him to eat lunch and is upset that he still did not eat his lunch.

    The big problem with most whites, esp. Russians, is denial. Russians are going extinct due to smoking, drinking, divorce, women’s lib, late marriages (fertility peaks at 18-22 and most white women are infertile by 30), low birth rate, high divorce rate, and now HIV.

    And instead of confronting these issues, and educating the Russian public about these dangers, they (and their govt.) are in denial, claiming that the death spiral is not that fast and are trying to ignore these dangers.

    It reminds me of a joke of a smoker, smoking and another man told him “Don’t smoke, this is slow poison” and the smoker replied: “That’s fine. I am in no hurry.”

    It is only a matter of time truckloads of Chinese and Africans/Asians invade Europe and Russia and start attacking white women. This is already happening as shiploads of Africans are invading Europe and attacking and killing white women and men.

    And the stupid white politicians rescue these invaders and bring them in. Insane beyond belief.

    The end of the white race is near.

  14. Yevardian says

    I believe “”still” is being used in the context of repeated Western claims of a soon arriving Russian AID’s epidemic. As for “white genocide”, I’m sure that Europe is more than capable of a sudden program of vicious expulsion/extermination of recent arrivals; given it’s history. Don’t be so naive, remember what continent you’re talking about.

  15. I’m sure that Europe is more than capable of a sudden program of vicious expulsion/extermination of recent arrivals; given it’s history. Don’t be so naive, remember what continent you’re talking about.

    Certainly possible, but, most likely, improbable. European elites and media are completely corrupt and impotent and so is the large part of population. But, I am not in Europe, so I could be mistaken. But Christopher Caldwell’s brilliant treatise Reflections On The Revolution In Europe still comes to mind. Let’s not compare Europe of 1930s and of today.

  16. I remember when the scientific and medical community was telling us everyone was susceptible to AID’s. That it had nothing to do with the Gay lifestyle and their drug use and heteros doing anal sex. In fact they attacked and destroyed the career of any doctor or critic who brought it up.

    But their lies made a lot of those scientists fat with government research grants.

    It was then I realized scientists and doctors could be bought as easily any whore and they’d lie like anyone else. Many lacked any sort of intellectual and moral honesty.

  17. Bob Arctor says

    “and most white women are infertile by 30”

    This is idiotic nonsense; a tiny, low single digit percentage of women are menopausal even at age 35, much less at age 30. In any case, black women are actually the most likely to be infertile in their 30’s.

    Why do you feel entitled to lie?


    Sir (or Madam?), you are confusing between menopause and fertility. They are 2 different things.

    Women have a limited number of eggs, unlike a man, who creates more sperm each day.

    By age 30, 90% of a white woman’s eggs are gone, gone for good, and only 10% remain.

    You can see that graph here.

    Fertility peaks at 22 for white women:

    Black women are, on the contrary, hyperfertile.

  19. The Albino Sasquatch says

    Tell us something we don’t already know.