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Russian Prisoners Join War-Force in Hopes of Promised HIV Medicine

Ukrainian officials claim a fifth of Russian soldiers are HIV positive convicts.

Shutterstock / Thomas Ragina

At least a fifth of the recruits of Russian prisoners chosen to join the war force in Russia are HIV positive. Many claim they have joined to fight in order to receive the vital medication necessary, which they otherwise would not have access to.

The 20% of Russian prisoner recruits that are now fighting on the Russian side of the Ukrainian-Russo war are estimated to be HIV positive, according to Ukrainian authorities.

The prisoners are members of the Wagner Group fighting in Ukraine. Once captured by Ukrainian forces, they revealed that they joined only in hopes of receiving more effective HIV treatment than previously available in prison.

Joining the Wagner Group

As claimed by one detained prisoner, when they were prisoners, they had no access to the effective medication necessary to survive – apparently, simply waiting for the HIV to take over their immune systems completely.

Many prisoners have experienced this promise. When being on ineffective anti-viral medication in prison, they were promised proper supplies and a pardon if they joined the Wagner group fighting in Ukraine.

A prisoner, speaking to the New York Times, revealed he chose to fight with the Wagner Group because he believed he would not be able to survive for the duration of his sentence with only the medication they currently offered. When Russian officials proposed he fights with the Wagner Group for only six months, with the promise of proper anti-viral medication, the offer seemed too enticing.

I understood I would have a quick death or a slow death. I chose a quick death.

Russian prisoner, Wagner group

Fighters in the Wagner Group with HIV are identified with a red wristband, and convicts with Hepatitis are identified with a white wristband. New procedures have been implemented to sanitize their weapons after using them so as not to infect other soldiers.

The Wagner Group is the primary Russian force trying to capture the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. The Wagner Group has exceptionally high death toll numbers, making the group so infamous amongst Russians. The Us Gen. Mark Milley claimed it was a “slaughter-fest” for Russian force.

So far, more than 30,000 Russian soldiers fighting for the Wagner Group have died, of which 9,000 were killed in action.

Additionally, resources say that around 90% of the soldiers fighting in the Wagner Group in the past two and a half months were convicts and prisoners. It is becoming evident that the slaughter-fest, the Wagner Group, is becoming the only offer to leave prison for those jailed.

Russian officials say that they are losing men so fast because of having low ammunition. However, the immensely high number of fighters killed compared to soldiers wounded is probably caused by poor medical provisions across the fighting force.

What is the trade-off?

The anti-viral medication does not cure HIV entirely but makes it easier to live with. With the reduced nutritional value offered in prisons and the intense physical conditions of training and activities, many prisoners become bedridden very quickly if they already have HIV. Many prisoners with HIV even claimed that although they were receiving some supplements in prison, they were not effectively suppressing the symptoms of HIV.

Many have criticized the Russian military for offering HIV-positive prisoners to join the Wagner Group as the only way to accept proper medication. It is diminishing human lives to simple gunfire.

The trade-off is bleak—the trade-off exchanges one brutal death for another.

Read here of the Ukrainian Nobel winner that auctioned his prize to raise money for his country.

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