More funds for HIV treatment in Russia – but will it be enough?
The Russian Ministry of Health has increased its budget for HIV treatment by 20%, bringing its 2018 budget to 21.6 billion roubles. The government has said that as a result there will no longer be shortages in the supply of ant-retroviral drugs to the regions. Commenting on the press release from the Ministry of Health, Izvestia reported that the 2017 budget totalled 17.8 billion roubles. Despite the increase in funding for the current year experts still expect it will be impossible to provide the level of care that all the people infected with the HIV virus need. The newspaper argues that this would require a tripling of the budget. The Health Minister Veronica Skvortsova had previously stated that of the 37 million HIV positive people in the world, 900,000 live in Russia. According to Izvestia, 21.6 billion roubles will only be sufficient to treat 260,000 patients.
The national register of HIV positive people in Russia has been operating since 1 January 2017. Under this system it is possible to calculate the amount of medicine needed for any given region. Currently 714,300 patients are on the register. According to Kirill Barsky, Head of the AIDS Foundation Steps, less than 40% of HIV positive people receive treatment at the moment. There is not enough money to treat everyone infected by the virus. The therapy is only made available to those who are seriously ill.
Speaking at a press conference to TASS in November 2017, Irina Shestakova, Chief Visiting Expert in Infectious Diseases at the Russian Ministry of Health, reported an 18-fold increase in the number of patients receiving anti-retroviral therapy in the last ten years.
The PR agency Media Terra also quoted Irina Shestakova: “Every year more and more people in Russia are tested for the HIV virus. It is important that the number of people from so-called risk groups coming forward for testing is going up. Last year over 32 million people were tested. This is a substantial number considering we have a population of 147 million.”
In order to halt the spread of the disease medics believe it is essential to supply HIV drugs to everyone who needs it, not only to those who are on the HIV register. This first step has been taken. Now in 2018 the government has added seven anti-retroviral drugs to its list of life-saving drugs (VIMEM) that are available to patients.