Advocates, Health Experts Meet in Moscow for First Conference on HIV/AIDS in Region
HIV/AIDS advocates and health experts from 50 Eastern European and Central Asian countries gathered on Monday in Moscow for the first joint conference aimed at dealing with HIV/AIDS in the region, Russian Centre TV reports. At the three day conference, delegates plan to discuss ways to promote effective HIV prevention methods and increase access to treatment. Delegates also plan to discuss how to increase tolerance and reduce the stigma surrounding the disease (Russian Centre TV, 5/15). UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot in his keynote address at the conference called on delegates to tackle stigma and discrimination "head-on" in order to control the spread of HIV. "Fear and stigma are truly the best friends of HIV," Piot said (UzReport.com, 5/15). According to the U.N., 1.6 million HIV-positive people were living in Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the end of 2005, a figure that has increased tenfold in less than a decade (BBC News, 5/15).
HIV/AIDS in Russia
Russia is facing a public health crisis because of the spread of HIV/AIDS, advocates say. Although official figures place the number of HIV-positive people living in Russia at 334,000, UNAIDS says the figure is almost 900,000, and advocates say it could be more than one million, or 1%, of the country's population, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports. Some HIV/AIDS advocates say the government's neglect of people living with the disease and discrimination against them has fueled the epidemic in the country (Eckel, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 5/15). According to Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's chief physician, 30% to 50% of new HIV cases in the country occur in girls and women ages 15 to 44 (RIA Novosti , 5/15). HIV prevalence among young people also is increasing in Russia, with 1% of Russians ages 18 to 24 living with the virus, Vadim Pokrovskiy, head of the national research center that aims to prevent and control HIV/AIDS, said (ITAR-TASS News Agency, 5/15).
Russia To Launch Committee on HIV/AIDS, Prevention Efforts
Onishchenko at the conference on Monday said the Russian government by the end of this month plans to create a coordination committee to address the epidemic. The committee should include representatives of civil society and noncommercial organizations, Presidential Aide Igor Shuvalov said. Shuvalov also called for a campaign to promote condom use and needle-exchange programs. In addition, Mikhail Grishankov, deputy chair of the lower house of parliament's security committee, called on the country's Ministry of Education and Science to train specialists in sex education for school children (RIA Novosti , 5/15). Russian President Vladimir Putin last month asked officials to increase HIV/AIDS awareness in the country as the government announced it would allocate $175 million this year for HIV/AIDS programs. The amount 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/25).
More information on HIV/AIDS in Russia is available online on GlobalHealthReporting.org.