Can Russia lead the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic?
The outcome of Russian participation in the AIDS-2010 18th international conference, which took place in Vienna from 18 to 23 July, was presented at Journalists’ House.
Aleksei Burlak, a member of the co-ordinating council of the national organisation People Living with HIV, said that a major innovation by the conference had been to include Russian as one of the working languages. This applied to the plenary sessions, some of the individual sessions and also all the briefings. He said that this allowed attention to be drawn to the problems with combating the incidence of HIV/AIDS both in Russia and other countrie, which had been part of the former Soviet Union. This development also pleased Vadim Pokrovsky, the chief executive of the Federal Methodological and Scientific Centre for the Prevention of and Combating AIDS. However he said that he had expected more from the conference and that he was ‘not very satisfied with the depth of the research submitted to it. He mentioned that he was already acquainted with part of the material in the reports from the Eastern European and Central Asia conference which had taken place in Moscow in the autumn of 2009.
Both men observed that the Russian executive arm was not represented in Vienna. In their opinion this meant that NGOs working in the field needed to concentrate on bringing the problems of prevention and treatment to the government’s attention. This applied in particular to the inadequate supply of anti-viral therapy preparations (AVTP) and the need for prevention of HIV in general including amongst the most vulnerable groups like sex workers, those injecting narcotics and migrants. Mr Pokrovsky thought it might be a good idea to write to the president of the Russian Federation setting out suggestions for changing the situation. He thought that Russia could become a leader in combating the epidemic if ‘we could resolve the issues of prevention and irregular supply of AVTP’.
In his opinion four to five million roubles needed to be spent annually on educating Russians on ways of protecting themselves against becoming infected with HIV. However, goal setting was important. At the moment most of the resources were going on buying anti-viral medicines and HIV testing reagents, a process supported by the pharmaceutical industry. In relation to methods of prevention he considered that the approach to prevention favoured by the Moscow city authorities was ideal, ie responsible sexual behaviour, and he called on the NGOs to continue lobbying for provision for alternative methods of prevention to be included in the federal budget.