- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2015

Russia’s Industry and Trade Ministry is defending proposals to include a ban on foreign condoms as part of an overall embargo on foreign medical goods, despite the country’s growing struggle with HIV and AIDS. 

Gennady Onishchenko, former chief sanitary inspector of Russia, told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that condoms “have nothing to do with health” and the ban “will simply make one more disciplined, more strict and discriminating in choosing partners, and maybe will do a favor to our society in respect to solving demographic problems,” The Moscow Times reported.  

His remarks come as new reports indicate Russians are grappling with rapidly rising HIV infection rates, while most European countries have succeeded in decreasing their numbers. 

Vladim Pokrovsky, Russia’s top AIDS expert, estimated at least two million Russians are likely to be infected in five years and blasted the Kremlin for promoting conservative policies that have failed to halt the spread of the disease, The Guardian reported.

However, Mr. Pokrovsky admitted that there is “no direct link” between HIV infection rates and the availability of imported condoms, because they are too pricey for many students and low-income Russians, Interfax news agency reported.

But the cheaper Russian condoms are much poorer in quality and might not be as effective, Mr. Pokrovsky said.

The newest ban will also prohibit imports on foreign X-ray and ultrasound machines, defibrillators, incubators and other medical equipment.

The planned embargo, announced Tuesday, is the latest in a string of Western import bans by Moscow, which has called for the destruction of U.S. and European food products.

On Thursday the Kremlin used steamrollers and tractors to pulverize tons of western imported cheese and fruit in a public display of its commitment to the year-old food ban.

The demonstration raised protests in Russia with people signing petitions urging the government to donate the food to the hungry and the poor suffering through the country’s crippling recession, The Associated Press reported.

The Kremlin first introduced the bans last year in response to Western sanctions imposed on Russia following its annexation of Crimea.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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