Russia Pledges $107M in 2006 To Increase Efforts To Fight HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS is now "one of Russia's national priorities," and the government plans to devote $107 million in 2006 and $267 million in 2007 to "an unprecedented effort" to fight the disease in the country, Vladimir Starodubov, deputy of the Ministry of Public Health, announced on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reports. According to official figures, there are about 330,000 HIV-positive people living in Russia, although some experts say those figures are probably one-third of the actual number. About 40,000 HIV-positive people in the country need antiretroviral treatment but only about 5,000 receive it, Mikhail Rukavishnikov -- an official with the Community of People Living with HIV/AIDS, a nongovernmental organization -- said. The government's pledge, which increases the current state funding for HIV/AIDS projects 20-fold, "gives us hope that all of those who need treatment will have access to it," Rukavishnikov said, adding that his organization on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, will start a public awareness campaign to thank the government for its decision. Advocates say that HIV/AIDS-related discrimination, including that from employers and physicians, continues to be "a formidable challenge" for the country (Agence France-Presse, 11/29). As part of increasing efforts to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia, officials plan to include infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, as a separate topic on the agenda at the Group of Eight Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, this summer, Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's Chief Public Health Official and head of the Federal Consumer Rights and Human Wellbeing Service, said at a press conference on Monday, the Interfax Ukrainian News reports. Onishchenko said that the G8 forum would focus on measures to fight HIV/AIDS in East Europe and Central Asia (Interfax Ukrainian News, 11/28).
U.S. Funding To Assist Orphans
U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Burns on Wednesday announced that USAID will provide $400,000 to assist children born to HIV-positive women in Russia, MosNews reports. Burns said that USAID awarded grants to 10 pilot programs under the Assistance to Russian Orphans 2 program to help HIV-positive women during pregnancy and child raising. Between 15% and 18% of HIV-positive mothers relinquish their parental rights, according to program coordinators. About 21,000 children have been born to HIV-positive women in Russia, and about 2,000 of the children are HIV-positive (MosNews, 11/30). About 1,500 of those children have been abandoned by their parents and are being cared for in hospitals that specialize in pediatric HIV/AIDS care, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Many women abandon a child over a fear that the child also is infected, although most of the children born to HIV-positive women do not contract the virus, while some women abandon their children because they are injection drug users and cannot properly care for a child, according to the AP/Post-Intelligencer. Under Russian law, abandoned children must be taken in for three years by so-called "baby houses" that teach them to walk, talk and interact with other children. However, many of the institutions refuse to admit the children out of fear that other children or care workers will become infected, so the children are left in the hospitals where they are born. Most of the children are not adopted because of widespread HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in Russia, which means "the future of the first generation of children born to Russians with HIV remains one of the country's big challenges," according to the AP/Post-Intelligencer (Danilova, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/30).