AIDS official says that the HIV virus is spreading fast in Russia
Posted Nov 24 2008 3:50pm
Steve Gutterman, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MOSCOW - A top Russian anti-AIDS co-ordinator has lambasted the government's approach to fighting HIV, saying the number of registered cases is growing 10 per cent a year despite increased federal funding.
Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the state-funded Federal AIDS Centre which is charged with co-ordinating efforts, points to a misguided focus on treatment instead of prevention.
He says it has undermined efforts to combat AIDS.
Pokrovsky says Russia still has no national policy on fighting AIDS.
Each day about 130 new cases are registered in Russia.
Pokrovsky estimates there are more than a million Russians infected with HIV - or almost one per cent of the country's 142 million population.
Officially, Russia has registered less than half that number at 470,000.
A large number are young drug users infected by dirty needles or tainted communal drug supplies, experts say.
However, widespread social stigmas, misinformation and official denial mean many people remain unaware they are at risk of being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Some regional governors "have simply refused to acknowledge the problem of AIDS," Pokrovsky said Friday.
Others, assuming higher spending would make the problem go away, have done little to publicize the problem, he said.
"Everyone needs to understand that this is a threat to the nation, and it's necessary to mobilize as one would for war," Pokrovsky said.
He urged the government to devise a clear strategy for informing citizens about HIV, and said funding would have to be used more wisely for results.
Starting in 2006, the government - enriched with oil-boom proceeds - exponentially increased funding for the battle against AIDS as part of a push to improve health care and stem Russia's population decline.
The government says budget spending for HIV-related activities last year amounted to 10.7 billion rubles ($445 million) and was more than 50 times higher than in 2005.