Twenty percent of women in Russian prisons are HIV-positive. This is a real epidemic. Additional diseases are also detected, for example, hepatitis or tuberculosis.
In many ways, this situation is due to the fact that instead of rehabilitating drug addicts, they are imprisoned. Among both men and women, "narcotic" articles are the most common. Often these are long terms. For example, for social sales they are sentenced for five, eight, even ten years. Our heroine Svetlana was "framed" by another drug user, who was apparently promised that she would not be imprisoned. Someone in security institutions received a "tick" for the distributor’s capture statistics. And the person was incarcerated for a long time.
This policy leads to the fact that about forty percent of serving sentences women are sitting on "narcotic" articles: either profiling or accompanying. The result is that every fifth woman is HIV-positive. Taxpayers maintain prisons, guards, investigators, and judges. It would be much more effective to direct this money to rehabilitation centers and programs for drug addicts.
The second problem is prison medicine. This is insufficient provision of qualified medical personnel and the necessary medicines. It happens that the treatment is chosen incorrectly. Even so it is prescribed correctly, it is uncertain whether drug curing will be provided without interruptions.
When a person is in a colony, sometimes the only specialist there is a psychiatrist-narcologist. An infectious disease physician appears irregularly, it is difficult to take tests, all this affects the timing. The system is very sparse, inflexible. In cities it is more or less acceptable, and in remote colonies, everything can last for many months. In a detention center certain drugs can be prescribed, but there are not the same in a colony, or they interrupt treatment. Therapy sometimes is interrupted for six months or even for a year. Usually they buy the cheapest drugs, which often have side effects. For example, cheap insulin is bad for many people with diabetes, because it doesn’t work or has powerful side effects.
The ECHR decision, which we are writing about in this project, shows that a woman with HIV hadn’t been receiving treatment for more than four years and she couldn’t take tests. Unfortunately, prisoners are paying with their health and lives for the poor state of prison health care.
When I was a member of the PMC of St. Petersburg, there were interruptions in the drug purchase, sometimes they were delayed for a year. That was usually due to a lack of adequate funding. Moreover, the interruptions were not only in HIV therapy, but also in insulin. Once I came to the hospital where people with diabetes were. But… insulin was over in the colony. The prison doctor decided, that he didn’t want to "sit", so he sent them to the hospital to avoid insulin shocks. Fortunately, there were free places in the hospital. ARVT therapy is not considered to be urgent, a person won’t go into a coma, but the virus produces resistance, it’s necessary to change drugs.
I believe that the prison population can be reduced by half at least without problems for society. Many of them can be provided by a non-custodial measure, they are not dangerous to society. It is better to direct the saved funds to rehabilitation and resocialization, providing work social projects, housing, etc. People are just not used to live at large, cannot get a job (some of them are forced to do sex work, this is also an HIV risk group), no one needs them here, they are branded a "criminal". Therefore, the risk of relapse is so high in Russia.