mark hertsgaard

Independent Journalist & Author


Sex, Needles Rubles


Welcome to Spotlight, Link TV’s weekly series of investigative reports from
around the world. I’m Mark Hertsgaard in San Francisco, and this episode the
spotlight is on AIDS in Russia.


AIDS has become the deadliest epidemic in human history. Since its discovery
in 1981, AIDS has killed 25 million people and infected 40 million more.
Treatment has improved in recent years, but only the affluent enjoy access to
it. Globally, according to the UN, only one in five HIV patients get the
drugs they need.

And experts warn that the worst is still to come, as the virus spreads from
high-risk groups to general populations. In Africa alone, 100 million people
are projected to die, dwarfing the death toll of the 1918 influenza epidemic
and the Black Death of 14th century Europe.

AIDS is spreading particularly quickly in Russia, where the shock transition
to capitalism has reduced two thirds of the public to below or very near the
poverty level. What hope exists against AIDS in Russia comes largely from
foreign volunteers who, as you’re about to see, struggle against immense

We’ll be back afterwards with an update. For now, from Laika Productions in
France, here is, Sex, Needles & Rubles, on Link TV, your connection to the


You’re watching Spotlight on Link TV. I’m Mark Hertsgaard.

Fortunately, there is also encouraging news on the AIDS front; treatment and
public education work. What’s required is a willingness to fund them.

Global AIDS spending rose to $8.3 billion in 2005, which helped the World
Health Organization provide treatment to over one million new patients. When
the International Monetary Fund cancelled $5 billion of Zambia’s foreign debt,
the government announced free basic healthcare for all citizens.

Russia could make a similar choice. Rising energy prices have recently given
Moscow a huge financial windfall. Some of that money could go to upgrade a
health care system that otherwise might collapse entirely from the future AIDS

Likewise, internationally: The UN estimates that new AIDS infections could
fall 50 percent by 2020, but only if AIDS funding triples to $23 billion a
year—that’s about 2 percent of the world’s annual military budget.

If you want to find out more about these issues, check out the resources
listed at the end of this program. You can also find those resources at our
Following those listings you’ll see a clip from next
week’s program. Until then, this is Mark Hertsgaard in San Francisco for
Spotlight. Thanks for joining us.



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About Mark

Independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard is the author of seven books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden; HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth; and A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. He has reported from twenty-five countries about politics, culture and the environment for leading outlets, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Mother Jones, NPR, the BBC and The Nation, where is the environment correspondent. He lives in San Francisco.