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November 24, 2008

Russian AIDS Official Criticizes HIV Prevention Efforts

Russia’s senior AIDS official criticized his government’s handling of the epidemic, AP reports. Despite increased funding, registered HIV cases were growing 10 percent a year.

Focusing on treatment instead of prevention has hindered efforts to fight the spread of the disease, said Vadim Pokrovsky. He heads the state-funded Federal AIDS Center, which is charged with coordinating domestic HIV efforts. “This is the weakest point in our work: prevention of new cases of infection,” Pokrovsky said. “We are doing practically nothing about this.”

About 130 new HIV cases are registered each day in Russia, said Pokrovsky, who estimates that more than 1 million Russians are living with HIV—which is nearly 1 percent of the country’s population of 142 million. Officially, Russia has registered 470,000 people with the virus. The epidemic has steadily increased in the past decade.

Last year, the government budgeted $406 million for HIV-related activities, more than 50 times higher than in 2005. But due to the country’s financial crisis, the government has cut AIDS funding. This year, the government is spending $270 million on AIDS programs, including $193 million on drug treatments for 30,000 AIDS patients. Only $7.6 million was budgeted for prevention efforts, which Pokrovsky called inadequate.

“Everyone needs to understand that this is a threat to the nation, and it’s necessary to mobilize as one would for war,” he said.

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