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Eastern Finland seniors contracting HIV in Russia despite information campaigns

Despite information campaigns, men of pension age are still bringing back unwanted souvenirs of visits across the border.

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Older men have been instructed in the proper use of condoms. Image: EPA

In recent years health authorities in South Karelia have traced a number of HIV infections to neighbouring Russia.

Last year the South Karelia Social and Health Care District (Eksote) confirmed seven new cases of HIV infection.

Six of the patients were men, and all but one were Finnish citizens. The average age of the Finnish male patients was 70 and all their infections were found to originate in the Russian border town of Svetogorsk (formerly the Finnish town of Enso).

Svetogorsk is 45km from Lappeenranta, the capital of South Karelia, and just 5km from Imatra.

Chlamydia on the rise among young women

Officials say that the trend of older men picking up HIV in Russia has become familiar, and persists despite repeated efforts to stamp out the problem.

Information campaigns have urged men in the region to use condoms of the correct size. Residents have also been advised to get tested so that possible HIV cases can be detected before progressing to AIDS.

One significant problem is excessive modesty. An individual may for instance put off getting tested because he lives in small town and knows the nurses personally.

Besides HIV cases, Eksote's 2018 infectious disease report also shows an uptick in diagnosed cases of sexually-transmitted chlamydia. Just over 60 percent of these patients were women. Nearly nine out of 10 female patients were aged 15-25.

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