Russian AIDS prevention funds not going to most at-risk groups
The Patient Control pressure group has been monitoring tenders submitted for the procurement of State funded projects aimed at preventing instances of HIV and Hepatitis B and C in Russia. Their research has shown that vulnerable groups are allocated less than 8% of all funded projects.
Patient Control began their analysis during 2015 and examined 247 projects costing 150,000,000 roubles. The group presented its findings at the recent 5th Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECAAC) HIV Conference held in Moscow.
“We wanted to find out how federal money is used because a lot of people we’ve spoken to feel that resources for prevention work are being directed everywhere else but not to us. However, at least now we have the data to discuss this issue properly which wasn’t the case previously”, said Xenia Babikhina, an analyst working for Patient Control.
Research has revealed that only 7.5% of projects are aimed at vulnerable groups such as intravenous drug users, prison inmates and HIV sufferers, as compared to the 60% targeted at the general population. 60% of these projects have been undertaken during the last three months, with a further 6% carried out as part of last year’s World Aids Day.
Most activities involve public awareness campaigns, which mainly include the circulation of printed material. “I worked out that if we converted all the paper used in producing this literature into wood, there would be enough to build a small village”, said Babikhina.
A major part of educational projects are aimed at professionals and the general population. An adventure game was organised for students in one particular region which had a prize fund of 200,000 roubles, she added.
The research also showed that advertising agencies, commercial organisations, individual entrepreneurs, radio and television stations, printing houses and NGOs were the major beneficiaries from the procurement exercise, and that the successful bodies were those whose aims and objectives had nothing to do with the fight against the AIDS.
“Only 8.5% of contracts were agreed directly with specialist non-profit organisations”, said Babikhina. “While looking at a number of projects, we came across people whose main line of work involved selling furniture, timber or other general products. This happens because a fixed price is the major criterion in choosing a service provider”. Experts believe that the present focus on prevention programmes does not reflect current trends in the growth of HIV in Russia. “What we need is a single State prevention programme which takes account of the principal trends that impact on HIV, as well as changing the way we work with vulnerable groups and engaging with specialist NGOs. In addition, it is important that prevention programmes are undertaken over a whole year, rather than just for the last three months”, Babikhina added.
The likelihood of HIV infection among vulnerable groups around the world is much higher compared to the general population. According to data from the Bridging the Gaps group, the risk of infection among drug users is 28 times higher, 12 times higher for sex workers, 19 times higher for sex between men, and 49 times for sex among transgender women.
Author: Irina Laktyushina