Russian Ministry denies shortage of retro-virals for HIV sufferers
On 16 September a meeting took place at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare about ensuring regular supplies of retro-viral drugs. Shortages appeared in April, and persist, with 20 Russian regions experiencing shortages, according to the organisers of the meeting. More than 30 activists who have experienced problems in their own regions took part in the meeting, dressed in bear costumes, and tried to enter the ministry. But they were arrested, taken to the police station, and released after being charged with organising a public meeting without official permission. They expect to be prosecuted. The Ministry responded to their representations with an official letter, saying that it has information that in most regions there are no problems with supplies of drugs, and that there are therefore no grounds for claiming that tens of thousands of people are going without the drugs they need. New supplies will be delivered by 15 November. The letter also mentioned that a Federal Service for the Prevention and Treatment of AIDS (an Aids Centre) has been established. Its responsibilities include the provision of medical care to HIV sufferers; in 2010 it received 10 billion roubles for drugs. This should be enough for the needs of all regional AIDS centres, which are in a position to know exactly how many people need the drugs. The orders received in 2010 are sufficient to treat 70,000 people. However, as a result of steps taken in Russia to prevent infection there has been a slowing of the rate of infection, with an annual increase in cases of less than 7%. The Ministry said that these figures are lower than in Eastern and Western Europe, where infection has been increasing at a rate of 8.1%, according to research by the Euro HIV Index-2009.