May 20 (UPI) -- More than 300,000 people have died from HIV and AIDS in Russia over the last three decades, the nation's national consumer watchdog said Monday.
Rospotrebnadzor, Russia's federal consumer protection service, said 318,000 HIV-positive patients have died since 1987 and more than 1.2 million cases reported. That translates to 10,000 deaths annually in the last 32 years -- but some experts believe that number may be too low, the Moscow Times reported.
The report said sexual transmission is the way Russians contract HIV the most, accounting for 58 percent of all cases, and nearly 40 percent through drug use. Nearly three quarters of the new cases come from heterosexual contact.
The World Health Organization last year cited a record number of new Russian cases in 2017, and warned the nation might be prone to an out-of-control HIV epidemic.
Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal AIDS Center in Moscow, called Russia's HIV epidemic a "national catastrophe" and said government statistics underestimate the crisis. Health officials said in some locations, 1 in 50 contracts the virus.
In the United States, gay and bisexual men make up those most affected by HIV, accounting for 67 percent of the 40,000 new cases in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The CDC also says nearly 500,000 gay and bisexual men in the United States are at high risk -- and estimates 1 in 51 will receive an HIV diagnosis at some point in their lifetimes.