Russian President Putin Calls for Increased HIV/AIDS Awareness; Russia To Spend $175M on HIV/AIDS Programs This Year
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday asked officials to increase HIV/AIDS awareness in the country as the government announced it will allocate $175 million this year for HIV/AIDS programs, Reuters reports. Although official figures place the number of HIV-positive Russians at more than 342,000, some "experts think it is much higher," Putin said, adding that most infections are in people under age 30. "We need to constantly explain to people the danger and high risk of catching HIV," Putin said, adding, "Above all, it is important to work with high-risk groups. So far we do not have a common strategy [for] this." Putin said that he will make HIV/AIDS a priority during a meeting of leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations scheduled to be held in Russia later this year (Bullough, Reuters, 4/21). The $175 million in HIV/AIDS funding is a more than 30-fold increase over last year's allocation, and the government plans to increase the amount to about $284.9 million next year (Smith, Globe and Mail, 4/24).
Agence France-Presse Examines Russia's Response to Western Aid
Agence France-Presse on Sunday examined how some politicians in Russia are saying safer-sex HIV prevention methods advocated by Western groups promote "immorality." A group of legislators has drafted an appeal requesting Putin to limit the activities of international HIV/AIDS groups in Russia. The appeal is supported by Lyudmila Stebenkova, chair of Moscow's health commission, and head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II. "We're buying AIDS prevention programs from countries we were at war with a few years ago," Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the federal center on preventing and fighting AIDS, said, adding, "This money would be better spent if it were used to set up real structures in Russia so that we could deal with this problem on our own." According to Mikhail Rukavishnikov, head of a private organization that supports people living with HIV/AIDS, Russian authorities see such groups "as rivals." He added, "We urge the use of condoms, while they swear abstinence is the only way to fight AIDS. But instead of besmirching each others' reputation, we would do better to join forces and work together." Although the Russian government has increased funding for HIV/AIDS programs in the past five years, the money is "dwarfed" by the funding provided by international organizations in Russia, such as the World Bank and the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 4/23).