Bertil Lindblad, a UNAIDS representative in Russia, told a news conference that more than 80% of the patients suffering with the virus that causes AIDS in Russia were under the age of 30, against the figure of 30% in North America and Western Europe.
Lindblad added that another major cause for concern was the increasing number of HIV-infected women. In fact, this could have serious implications for a country that is already facing a demographic crisis in the midst of high deaths and low birth rates.
The UN representative said there were 1.4 million HIV-plus patients in Russia - about 1% of the population - which is in stark contrast to the official statistics that put the figure at just over 340,000.
Previously, health officials in the country tended to confine the problem to drug users sharing intravenous needles, but now public awareness posters in public places such as the subway entreat young people to be cautious in the sexual behavior and use condoms.
Meanwhile, according to survey conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, a prominent pollster, the overwhelming majority of Russians (84%) consider AIDS to be a growing problem, and 70% welcome Russia's intensified anti-AIDS efforts. Only 3% of the respondents said they knew HIV-plus patients who were aware of their status, and 60% said they were cautious in contacts with such people.
The UNAIDS program unites 10 UN agencies seeking to combat AIDS by HIV prevention, offering support to HIV-infected people, reducing vulnerability of people and individual communities to AIDS and dealing with consequences of pandemics.