According to the report, there are currently 6,286 HIV-positive people in Estonia — with 555 new cases registered this year — and 176 people have died of AIDS.
Kristi Ruutli, spokeswoman for Estonia's National Institute for Health Development, said in the report that the HIV virus is being spread among young, male drug-users, many of whom belong to the country's sizable ethnic Russian minority.
Prostitution has also contributed to the spread, Ruutli said, and the virus has also been transmitted with increasing frequency through heterosexual contact.6,286 people is a lot for a country of 1.34 million people. But when you consider that the virus has been localized to ethnic Russians in northeastern Estonia, it's even more worrisome because you are dealing with a smaller community of people. The jump in the HIV rate also coincided with a similar spread in northwestern Russia, so one can assume that the junkie community has spread the virus from St. Petersburg through Narva and into Tallinn.
Narva currently has a population of around 67,000 people, the lowest since the early 1970s, of those about 53,800 are ethnic Russians and just 2,700 are ethnic Estonians. About 28,000 are Estonian citizens, 23,000 are Russian citizens, and 15,000 remain stateless. Since 1991, Narva has lost 19 percent of its population. The city is already dealing with higher rates of unemployment and chronic diseases, like HIV/AIDS, only compounds the problem.
What's the solution? Greater investment? Sure. If Estonia is searching for workers then some are to be found in Narva, that's true. A softer, Western European approach, like free needles for addicts? Perhaps they already have this. More obligatory HIV testing? Could work. The only scary question is, if there are 6,300 people in Estonia who know that they have HIV, how many are there that don't know they are carrying the disease? No one can accurately estimate that number, but it is most certainly higher than the number of known cases.