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TV host becomes first public figure in Russia to declare himself HIV-positive

Pavel Lobkov announces HIV-positive status on live broadcast

ПОКА ТУТ / Wikipedia

A popular Russian TV host announced that he's HIV-positive on air Tuesday night, according to a report from AFP. The host, Pavel Lobkov, made the announcement during a live broadcast on independent TV station Dozhd (TV Rain), making him the first Russian public figure to openly declare himself HIV-positive, according to AFP.

Although HIV infection rates have steadily declined across much of the world, they continue to rise in Russia, with more than 1,000 new cases each month. Experts lay much of the blame on the conservative policies of the Russian government, which has long banned methadone and other forms of opiate substitution therapy. (Injection drug users account for about 60 percent of Russia's HIV-positive population.) Schools also continue to prioritize abstinence over prevention-based sex education, and HIV-positive Russians face widespread stigmatization.

"Today I accomplished a serious feat in my life."

"Today I accomplished a serious feat in my life," said Lobkov, 48, who was fired from the state-run NTV channel in 2012, allegedly over his involvement in protests against President Vladimir Putin. Lobkov also described the moment he found out he was HIV-positive, in 2003, saying a doctor wrote "HIV+" in red marker on his file and told him he could no longer receive treatment at the clinic because of his diagnosis. He also suggested that he had considered suicide.

Lobkov thanked his followers for their support in a Facebook post following his announcement, describing his plight as a "battle with medieval attitudes" and "everyday lying." Video of the broadcast, in Russian, is embedded below.