HIV Spreading Rapidly in Russia; Officials Estimate 1 in 25 Could Have Disease in Five Years
The HIV transmission rate in Russia is "in danger of rising out of control," with the possibility that 1 in 25 Russians could have the disease within five years, according to a report released yesterday by Vadim Pokrovsky, head of Russia's Center for AIDS Prevention, the New York Times reports. Although Russia has an estimated 500,000 HIV/AIDS cases, the true number of HIV/AIDS cases could be as high as 1.5 million, according to the Times. The country faces a "potential catastrophe" if the disease begins to spread from injection drug users to the general population, with "severe consequences" on its population structure and labor force (Wines, New York Times, 5/22). "In a few years from now, death from AIDS will become as common in this country as death in transport accidents," Pokrovsky said, adding, "It will affect the life expectancy in Russia because 90% of people who contract AIDS are under 30" (Bazhenova, ITAR-TASS World Service, 5/21). Pokrovsky said that the number of individuals who contracted HIV through sexual intercourse rose 8% from 2001 to 2002 and one-third of new cases were among women, up from 25% in 2001, according to the Times. In addition, the number of infants born to HIV-positive women doubled from 2001 to 2002 (New York Times, 5/22). In March, Pokrovsky called the Russian government's small amount of financing for HIV/AIDS prevention "ridiculous" and called for more money to curb the disease's spread. He also said that in several of the country's larger cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, approximately 1% of the population is HIV-positive. He added that Russia has more HIV/AIDS cases than the United States and Europe do and is "catching up" with Africa (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/20).
Money To Fight
"The problems related to HIV infection are like a snowball, and the longer we look at how it rolls down the slope, the larger it will be when it stops if we do not come out altogether to stop this avalanche," Pokrovsky said. The Russian government has allocated about $38 million in 2003 to fight HIV/AIDS, according to the Times (New York Times, 5/22). The World Bank has agreed to loan Russia $150 million to fund a five-year national program to treat and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The program, called the Tuberculosis and AIDS Control Project, is the first nationwide Russian effort to fight the two diseases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/8). In addition, the United States has earmarked $6 million for HIV/AIDS programs in Russia, Kent Hill, assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said in an interview published on Wednesday in Vremya Novostei, according to Interfax News Service. The money is part of an $18 million package aimed at providing health care and assistance to Russian orphans. Hill also said that USAID had disbursed another $2 million for TB programs (Interfax News Service, 5/21). More information on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia is available online as part of kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.