Mock concern about HIV used to promote US corporate profits

This is a story in the Guardian about the HIV crisis in Russia.

The first half of the article is a factual – and troubling – presentation of the situation in Russia with respect to HIV. But the second half is full-on promotion of the Western solution. Western responses to the HIV virus include: sex education in schools, methadone substitution programmes for heroin users and ‘harm reduction’ advice programmes to at risk groups. The author of this article just promotes these particular approaches without any sense that they may not necessarily be suitable for Russia – or desired by Russians. He mocks a senior Russia official for statements that Russia does not need sex education in schools; because people can learn about life from literature. He blames Putin (gosh, no surprises there) personally for the ‘conservative political climate’ that makes it difficult to implement harm reduction programmes. (Harm-reduction programmes provide state acceptance of illicit behaviours. At risk individuals are to be advised on how they can reduce the harm to themselves whilst carrying on with their illicit and illegal activities. Such programmes are very popular amongst Western liberals. However; even in the West they are challenged by people, often from the point of view of religious or moral values, who argue a) that on principle we should not accept this watering down of values and b) that ‘abstinence’ programmes are as effective at reducing harm as ‘harm reduction’ programmes and c) that ‘harm reduction’ programmes often have the side-effect of encouraging more young people into the illicit behaviour. Methadone substitution programmes are also criticized from a sociological type perspective. Here, the argument is that they are based on imposing a disease model on people; to the benefit of the health industry). The author of the Guardian article reports on the fact that due to funding problems local clinics in Russia often run short of anti-viral drugs used to treat HIV. He does not link this funding shortfall to the wider picture which includes Western sanctions on Russia; sanctions which the US President recently boasted were destroying the Russian economy. [1]

This article appears in the Guardian apparently as reportage. It is not even tagged as opinion. Western liberal ‘journalists’ often simply write on Russia from the point of view of their own ideology and values but even by these standards this piece stands out for its one-sided and propagandist approach. It may take the reader a moment to find the clue. The clue is in a small byline at the top left of the page which admits that the ‘content’ is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This foundation is used by computer entrepreneur Bill Gates to promote his vision of development around the world. This vision relies heavily on solving problems of development by training people to be skilled consumers of the products of US based global corporations: GM modified seeds and agricultural chemicals, computer software and, now, perhaps methadone and HIV drugs. See here for a piece where we review the report of campaign group Global Justice Now into the Bill Gates Foundation. Global Justice Now’s report on the Bill Gates Foundation shows that in Africa it acts in concert with the interests of multinational argi-business. [2]

Of course; many of the proponents of these kinds of models of development probably genuinely believe in them. It is a nice coincidence that what they believe in is very profitable for themselves. But this doesn’t mean per se that they are being cynical. However; these models can be criticized and questioned. And in practice they are; from multiple viewpoints. When an article in a newspaper simply promotes these unquestionably as the only solution we know we are in the realms of corporate propaganda.

So. A piece ostensibly about concern for people with the HIV virus in Russia turns out to be propaganda for a particular model of development. A model which puts Western global corporations at the heart of any solution. One brand of methadone is Dolophine. This is produced by US Pharmaceutical company Roxanne Laboratories. [3] Another producer of methadone, appears to be UK registered company Rosemont Pharmaceuticals Ltd. [4] It appears that the substance is out of license and there are multiple manufacturers either producing the generic substance or branded variants.

The writer Ivan Illich wrote about ‘right-wing’ (in his words) institutions that seek to make people passive consumers of goods and services provided from above. Right-wing institutions try to create dependency and addiction in their users. The relationship between the institution which provides the service or product and its consumers is hierarchical and manipulative. Methadone treatment would be a case in point. Why let illegal drugs dealers make money out of drug addiction when we can do it ourselves? The reference in the article to a ‘conservative political climate’ is a way of referring to religious values without actually mentioning the word ‘religion’. This ‘climate’ may have been fostered by the present political regime in Russia but this regime is an elected one and these ‘conservative’ policies have widespread popular support. Russians just have more adherence to these kinds of values than the decadent Western liberal class. [5] In this article there is zero respect for these cultural differences. Russian ‘conservative’ values are attributed solely to ‘Putin’. These values are directly blamed for the suffering of people with the HIV virus. As usual with propaganda of this kind the author is careful to find a Russian who does have a leaning towards Western liberal values who can be used as a mouthpiece. The tactics of attributing everything in Russia which doesn’t suit the Western corporate/liberal world to ‘Putin’ and of using Russian liberals to voice the values of the Western liberal elite are designed to avoid the appearance of criticizing the Russian people and of superimposing values. Power works stealthily. As usual with Western liberal propaganda it is just taken as ‘beyond argument’ that the values of the Western liberal class are superior. All this, mock ‘humanitarian’ concern which masks profit seeking and imperialism, is the norm for the US corporate machine. It is slightly alarming though to see this being served up as ‘journalism’ by a newspaper in the UK.


It isn’t just methadone. If ‘conservative’ values in Russia can be overthrown and the disease model of behaviour adopted then this will open up scope for other opportunities. For example; currently in Russia it is not legal to ‘treat’ ‘ADHD’ with stimulant drugs. But if the disease model of behaviour can be imposed on Russians then another huge market will open up for these amazingly profitable (and harmful) drugs – all of which are manufactured by US pharmaceutical companies. [6]









Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer