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At a local clinic, the doctors diagnosed a sarcoma and took blood tests to establish the problem. How did you manage this? I ask. What was your technique - your secret? I push for the answer, intrigued at the quantity. I never had problems. The number of new victims of HIV in Moldova is rising steadily, with between - new reported cases each year, although the real figure is much higher.
The majority of new cases are heterosexual and this year the largest number of new victims are women. In , 85 per cent of new cases were due to drug users sharing infected needles and only 15 per cent were due to sex. Serge, 17 from the southern Moldovan town of Cahul, does not use condoms with his current girlfriend. I trust my current girlfriend and I never talked to her about the possibility of a disease - because she is a nice girl.
Meanwhile 21 year-old Ludmila from the town of Glodeni, says that, yes, the young know about HIV, but there is a wider stigma that embraces tradition and attitudes to women in Moldovan society. They know they should use condoms and the risks of HIV. Nevertheless there is a larger group of men who have sex with men MSM - and they do not gossip. In total these men account for around ten per cent of new HIV cases - not a critical mass, but one of concern.
Many have a family. When registering for a website such as Planet Romeo, the webmaster asks the client to expose minutiae about his own personal appearance and what he desires in another man. Men looking for casual sex with men are willing to share the tiniest of details about their preferences online, but nothing in real life. This is a staggering 17 per cent of the entire population, half of whom travel to EU countries and the others mainly to Russia.
Sometimes up to 20 men stay together in one apartment and there are few opportunities for "fun" in the evenings - except vodka and prostitutes. A worrying phenomenon is that married women in remote rural areas in Moldova who have only had one sexual partner find out at a clinic that they have HIV. Some of their husbands are coming back to Moldova with the virus - and are infecting their wives.