HIV rate to double in next five years?
About 90% of
new HIV infections in Eastern Europe are in Russia and Ukraine, according to Vadim
Pokrovsky, Head of the Federal Research Centre for the Prevention of HIV/AIDS,
at a press conference on the annual “World AIDS Day”. He said that Eastern
Europe is the only region where new HIV infections continue to rise. Official
data show that in Russia in 2010 58,426 new cases were recorded, and in the
first ten months of 2011 there were 48,363 new cases. This means that the
likely number by the end of the year would reach 62,000 – significantly higher
than in 2010. Pokrovsky stated that from 1987 to November 201 636,979 cases
were recorded. More than 100,000 people died in this period from HIV/AIDS-related
illnesses. These were only the officially recorded cases; many people in Russia
do not know that they are infected. Estimates which include undiagnosed cases
reach a total of 900,000 to I,300,000 cases.
Each year about
18 million people are tested for HIV and 60,000 turn out to be positive. In
Russia one in every 50 men is infected, and amongst them 70% are intravenous
drug users, while only 30% were infected through sexual contact. In women the ratio
is the other way round – 70% were infected by partners. Men become infected
through intravenous drug use and then infect their wives, many of whom are themselves
not in any risk category. They fall in love, marry and only when they become
pregnant do they find out through a blood test that they are HIV positive.
Pokrovsky said that young women therefore constitute a risk category in their
own right. He advised all of them to use condoms and have regular HIV tests.
antiretrovirals are used to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and this involves
taking three to four medicines together. Each of them acts with different
aspects of the virus and prevents it from developing. As long as a patient
takes these drugs, their immune system can recover. Patients tend to start treatment
when their immune system is already weakened. But it is important for the
infection to be diagnosed early and treatment to start at an early stage. Pokrovsky
added that prevention should be more active – in 2009 Russia hardly spent any
funds on this activity. Knowing the main channels for infection, a strategy
should be developed to prevent an epidemic. If this does not happen, the expert
considered, the number of people infected could double and reach two to three
million people over the next five years.