Russian Government Lacks Political Will To Combat HIV/AIDS Spread, Experts Say
The Russian government lacks the political will to combat the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is spreading at an "alarming pace" and is expected to cause an increase in the AIDS-related mortality rate because few people receive antiretroviral drugs, officials said on Wednesday at a conference of AIDS experts from the United States, Europe and Asia, AP/Yahoo! News reports (Donilova, AP/Yahoo! News, 11/17). Several dozen people last week held a rally in St. Petersburg, Russia, to demand that the Russian government provide antiretroviral treatment -- which costs between $10,000 and $15,000 per patient annually -- at no cost for HIV-positive people in the country. Before 1999, Russia had only a few thousand registered HIV-positive residents (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/11). However, the country officially has registered 300,000 HIV cases, and experts estimate that about 2% of the Russian population, or 1.5 million people, are HIV-positive, according to Ladnaya (AP/Yahoo! News, 11/17). Despite the recent increase in the number of new HIV/AIDS cases, the Russian government reportedly spends less than $1 million annually on HIV/AIDS prevention programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/11). "In 2005, we won't have the funds to treat more than 10,000 people," Natalia Ladnaya, a senior researcher at the Russian Federal AIDS Center, said. However, she added that increased funding alone would be "insufficient" without top Russian officials' commitment to the fight. "It is only when high-level officials support the fight (against HIV/AIDS) that it becomes effective," Ladnaya said. Anneli Uuskula, an AIDS expert at Estonia's University of Tartu, said the public also must work together to fight the disease, adding, "We also need the community and nongovernmental organizations to take action in this" (AP/Yahoo! News, 11/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.