HIV/AIDS is a major contributing factor in Russia’s population drop.

By May 22, 2006

Russia (MNN) — Russia is facing a major demographic crisis. The population continues to drop more than seven hundred thousand people each year. Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the issue in his recent state of the nation speech. It’s a huge threat for post-communist Russia with implications on the economy, the military and quality of life in general.

Russian Ministries’ Anita Deyneka says, while Putin talked of the population problems, “He didn’t mention that a major contributing factor to this is the HIV crisis, the AIDS crisis in Russia which is just spiraling. Ukraine and Russia have the most rapidly rising AIDS populations in the world. Not more people infected, but the highest rate of increase. And there was no mention of this in the state of the nation speech.”

Russia has been reluctant to admit the AIDS problem, even though it’s a serious threat to the nation. One of the most serious aspects of it, Deyneka says, is that it’s the youth who are dying, “In Russia, AIDS has a young face. Most of the world, about 80% of those infected are over 35 years of age. In Russia, 80% of those infected are under 30 years of age, and this just at the time when Russia’s population is declining, its future in jeopardy, the nation needing younger leaders, and of course, the church needing younger leaders, needing the next generation.”

Deyneka says there have been a few encouraging developments lately, with increased attention, discussions and financial involvement from some in Russia. But more is needed.

Russian Ministries is stepping in to help equip the church to address this pressing issue. They’re trying to reach the youth with the hope of Christ. “We’re certainly focusing on next generation leadership, on evangelizing, equipping, mobilizing the youth who are going to fill the pews and the pulpits and the parliament. And at the same time we can’t ignore that they’re dying at this rate and in such threat because of the AIDS crisis.”

One part of their outreach to youth is through the “Time to Live Festivals.” Since September of 2005, more than 30,000 youth in St Petersburg have attended these festivals that have contemporary music, bring in speakers, talk of HIV prevention and present the Gospel. During these gatherings, ministry personnel talk about healthy lifestyles and moral choices, specifically HIV.

Deyneka says, “While it’s a drop in the ocean considering the magnitude of the problem, we do want to move forward with this and all of our programs.”

The future is grim for Russia, unless the church gets involved in the issue and problem and brings the hope of Christ into the situation. Deyneka says, “As you know, the greatest hope is spiritual that can turn this situation around, and so it’s very grim, when you’re in Russia, you see articles with titles ‘Will we survive? Will we become extinct?’ because the demographic crisis is so serious, the drop in population, and the AIDS epidemic fueling this, and apart from change of heart and the church reaching out, it is very grim.”

There are signs of hope, but the church needs prayer to know how to help at this time when their country is suffering so much. Pray for the national church to have wisdom and pray that western organizations would seek to work together to build up the church.

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