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Thursday, May 17, 2007

AIDS ravages Russia, Cruel Kremlin Couldn't Care Less

AIDSMAP reports:

Russia may have as many as 1.3 million people already infected with HIV, according to Vadim Pokrovsky, head of Russia’s Federal AIDS Centre. Although Russia has registered 402,000 HIV diagnoses, Pokrovsky said yesterday that the rate of spread appears to be increasing, with new diagnoses growing by 8-10% a year. The Russian epidemic has been driven by injecting drug use. Now HIV is spreading from male injecting drug users to their female partners, especially in St Petersburg, Moscow and the Sverdlovsk region of the Urals, in central Russia. “Evidence of the strengthening heterosexual HIV infection is the increase in the number of women among those newly registered with HIV," Pokrovsky told Reuters. "On average for the country, one out of every fifty males is infected with HIV but in some cities it is one in ten," he said.

However Russia will spend only $7.75 million on HIV prevention in 2007, according to Pokrovsky. Russia’s HIV prevention approach was implicitly criticised in a speech on Sunday at the Eighteenth International Harm Reduction conference in Warsaw. JVR Prasada Rao of UNAIDS highlighted the positive progress towards adoption of harm reduction approaches in Asia, the Baltic states and Central Asia, and the failure of governments and donors to spend money on HIV prevention work among injecting drug users. The Russian government does not share the positive view of harm reduction. It continues to oppose methadone substitution for injecting drug users, and large scale needle and syringe exchange in Russia is funded almost entirely by foreign donors. At last year’s Eastern European and Central Asian AIDS conference, Martin Donoghoe of WHO Europe told delegates that up to 700,000 new HIV infections in the eastern Europe region could be averted if substitution therapy for injecting drug users was adopted. There is also a huge discrepancy between the number of HV-positive people and the numbers needing treatment. According to public health official Gennady Onishchenko 17,500 people are receiving treatment through government programmes and 22,500 through donor-funded schemes, and drug supplies have been unreliable.

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