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Kyrgyzstan's Abandoned AIDS Patients

Bishkek's lack of hospice care means people like Vitaly Korolkov have nowhere to go when they are dying of AIDS. A few days after this photograph was taken, in July, Vitaly passed away in a nearby ditch. (Photo: David Trilling)

This summer, Vitaly Korolkov, 38, was homeless, HIV-positive, and a recovering heroin addict. He began methadone treatment the last time he got out of prison, three years ago, because, as he put it, “I just want to live, don’t know how much time I have left.”

Vitaly had been in prison for theft – he stole to feed his habit. An ethnic Russian citizen of Kyrgyzstan, Vitaly, upon his release, wanted to visit his family in Russia’s Far East, where they’d emigrated following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“I’m all alone here,” he told me one morning in July after drinking his daily dose of methadone at a Bishkek clinic. But as an HIV-positive ex-con, he had been refused a Russian visa. And besides, Vitaly’s ashamed father had disowned him.

A few days after our conversation, Vitaly died of AIDS-related illnesses. Some acquaintances found his corpse in a ditch about four days later. “Because it was hot, his body smelled and no one wanted to take him to the morgue,” said Svetlana Kovalitskaya, a friend and social worker who had helped Vitaly since 2009.

To read the full story

David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.

Kyrgyzstan's Abandoned AIDS Patients

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