Russian Government Response to HIV/AIDS Fight ‘Virtually Nonexistent,’ Christian Science Monitor Reports
The Christian Science Monitor on Monday examined HIV/AIDS in Russia, where one million people are estimated to be HIV-positive and the government has been reluctant to respond to the disease, which is near "the threshold of an epidemic." Russia has one of the "world's fastest-growing rates of infection"; the World Bank estimates that the number of HIV cases could reach between 5.4 million and 14.5 million by 2020, according to the Monitor. However, official response to HIV/AIDS has been "virtually nonexistent," as politicians are "reluctant to associate themselves with the disease," which remains "stigmatized by its association with drug users and prostitutes," the Monitor reports. Russia has officially registered about 282,000 HIV cases since June -- nearly 25% of the estimated total -- and only three federal-level staff members manage a $4 million HIV/AIDS budget. Currently, about 1,800 Russians receive AIDS treatment at a cost of $7,000 to $12,000 per patient annually, but officials estimate that 7,000 more people will be treated next year using a $240 million, five-year grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as loans and grants from the World Bank, the United States and other Western donors. However, the World Health Organization estimates that 71,000 Russians will need treatment by 2005.
Some politicians say that the influx of donor funding means there is no need to increase the federal budget for HIV/AIDS. Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal AIDS Center in Moscow, said, "No one will recognize an invisible problem." Vinay Saldanha, head of the Canada AIDS Russia Project, said, "Ultimately, Russia must ask itself: How many Russians have to die before the Russian government begins to take this seriously?" adding, "Russia is the only member of the G8 that does not provide comprehensive prevention, care and support for people with HIV and AIDS" (Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, 8/16).
Additional information on HIV/AIDS in Russia is available online through kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on AIDS.