On May 5, a top Russian health official, Gennady Onishchenko, said Russia is “not ready” to implement methadone replacement therapy for intravenous-drug users in the country, a move that could help prevent the spread of HIV in Russia, the Associated Press reports (ap.google.com, 5/6).

Onishchenko said regulations in the country are currently not strong enough for methadone programs, arguing that weak law enforcement meant the clinics would “turn into shops for drugs.”

According to the article, up to 80 percent of the 1.6 million Russians living with HIV became infected through intravenous-drug use. Many AIDS activists and health officials are calling on the Russian government to address the spread of HIV through contaminated needles.

“You have countries that are moving in the right direction...and others that do not move. Russia is like an isolated island,” said Michel Kazatchkine, the director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “Where intravenous-drug use drives over 60 percent of the epidemic, you cannot afford not to have a comprehensive approach.”