HIV infections at crisis levels in Russia

The rate of HIV infections in Russia is reaching new heights, with
increasing rates of new cases. Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal Centre for
Prevention and treatment of AIDS connects this with the increase in testing for
HIV. Addressing the Public Chamber, he said that in some regions levels of HIV in
pregnant women were at 1%, which constitutes an epidemic. Latest figures show
that infection through sexual relations is increasing while that among drug
users is declining. Nonetheless, HIV infection is spreading fastest as a result
of using unsterilized syringes. 56% of all cases are as a result of injecting
drugs, while 45% are as a result of unprotected sex. The number of media
articles published about HIV/AIDS declined over the past year, and most of the
articles that were published served to misinform people, giving them the
impression that AIDS is not a dangerous illness, or that it does not exist at


Up to now there has been no national strategy against HIV infection in
Russia, said Pokrovsky. The government commission for prevention, diagnosis and
treatment of illnesses arising from HIV was abolished in the summer of 2012 and
no new body has replaced it. Distribution of funds for diagnosis and treatment
is now the responsibility of the regions, which means that the struggle with
the disease has been decentralised. It is not yet clear whether this is a good
or a bad thing but it has changed the situation radically.  Organisations monitoring the situation say
that, for example, auctions for expensive antiretroviral drugs take place in
the regions and the regional administrations decide how often this will happen.
This means that people’s lives are in danger, according to Yulia Dragunova ,
from the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition in Eastern Europe and
Central Asia ((ITPC). ITPC has discovered that in some regions, such as
Chukotka, no sales of the drugs have taken place at all. And decentralisation
makes it harder to arrange training for the people who conduct the auctions.
This requires additional resources which was not planned for when the handover
of responsibility took place. These factors could affect the treatment of HIV
positive patients, Dragunova warned.


 Further information: the data of the Federal Centre shows that on 1 March
2013 720,000 cases of HIV infection had been recorded in Russia. Of them more than
6000 are under fifteen years old. Over the past year alone, about 70,000 new cases
have been confirmed. The highest risk groups are intravenous drug users, sex
workers, and prisoners. For more than 15 years the main means of infection has
been through infected needles used for intravenous injections.

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