by VR Sreeraman on  November 22, 2008 at 12:13 PM AIDS/HIV News
 AIDS Epidemic on Rise in Russia Despite More Funding
Greater investment in combatting AIDS is failing to slow its spread in Russia, the director of the Russian federal AIDS centre Vadim Pokrovsky said Friday.

"The AIDS epidemic is currently rising in our country," Pokrovsky told a press conference in Moscow.

"We have a large amount of funding that is going to increase still further -- but the number of HIV-positive people is growing faster than our ability to care for them."

Nearly 37,000 Russians have contracted the HIV virus that leads to AIDS since the beginning of 2008 - a figure that could increase to 50,000 by the end of the year, he said.

That would represent an 11.8 percent increase from 2007, when 44,713 new cases were recorded, according to official figures. In 2006 and 2005, the number of new cases totalled 39,589 and 35,861 respectively.

The increase comes despite the Russian government earmarking 7.1 billion rubles (206 million euros, 258 million dollars) to fight AIDS, Pokrovsky said.

Some 5.1 billion rubles has been allocated for anti-retroviral drugs to help 30,000 HIV cases, but Pokrovsky criticised the government's "delay" in buying medication and "shortages" of drugs available.

A particular "weak point" of the government's programme is the allocation of no more than 200 million rubles for AIDS prevention, he said.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which since 2004 has helped 10,000 people, most of them migrants, with HIV in Russia, will stop operating in the country at the end of 2010.

"Russia is no longer considered one of the countries where its people earn low salaries, so it can no longer benefit from Global Fund money," he said.

Since AIDS emerged in the 1980s, 471,928 people have been registered HIV-positive in Russia and 54,720 have died.

"Often, those who are HIV-positive start treatment too late. Others do not know that treatment is available and they do not visit anti-AIDs centres for care," Pokrovsky added.

He faulted the Russian media of ignoring the issue, saying that a half-hour programmes on federal AIDS prevention are telecast only very early in the morning "when only retirees may be interested".

"In 2003-2004, then president Vladimir Putin spoke about AIDS in his speeches. Since then, no senior official has mentioned it, probably thinking that allocating money has solved the problem," he added.

Source: AFP

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