Russian Government Shuts Down Public Health Website

By: Qichen Zhang on 10 February 2012

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch reported that the Russian government deliberately shut down the website of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice. The website discussed the drug methadone, which is known to be effective in combatting opiate addiction but is currently illegal in Russia. After the foundation published information on methadone's potential to reduce HIV susceptibility among opiate users, the Federal Drug Control Service in Moscow ordered the website's block, claiming the illegality of the "placement of materials that propagandize (advertise) the use of drugs, information about distribution, purchasing of drugs and inciting the use of drugs.”

According to the Huffington Post, Russia is home to both one of the biggest populations of injecting drug users and one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in the world. In some regions, 80 percent of people living with HIV have contracted the virus through contaminated needles. According to the ARF's mission statement, the organization tries "to promote and develop humane drug policy based on tolerance, protection of health, dignity and human rights." Part of this mission includes publishing information about drugs that can aid dependence and other addictions.

The ARF shutdown is not the first time that the government has turned an issue of public health into one of free speech. TrustLaw mentioned that in 2006, the government shut down the website of Institute for Research of Mental Health Problems director and prominent Russian doctor Vladimir Mendelevich for publishing information about methadone and other drugs for opiate addicts.