Antiretroviral Drug Shortages in Parts of Russia Could Lead to Drug Resistant HIV Strains, Experts Say
Shortages of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS in some parts of Russia are "gravely impacting" the lives of people living with the disease and could lead to the spread of drug resistant strains of the virus, according to the World Health Organization's office in Moscow, the AP/Moscow Times reports. Mikhail Rukavishnikov, who heads the Russian Association of People Living With HIV, said he knows of two people who recently died because of interruptions in their antiretroviral therapy, adding that about 15 people have voiced concern about the shortages to him. Some physicians have begun mixing elements of different antiretroviral therapies because of the shortage, Vyacheslav Tsunik, president of a regional AIDS group, said (AP/Moscow Times, 6/21). The concerns come two months after Russian President Vladmir Putin announced that the government would allocate $175 million this year for HIV/AIDS programs. The amount is a more than 30-fold increase over 2005's allocation, and the government plans to increase the amount to about $284.9 million in 2007 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/23). Some HIV/AIDS advocates say that bureaucracy surrounding Russia's fight against HIV/AIDS is in part to blame for the shortages, the AP/Times reports. "At the policy and legislative level, this (antiretroviral) drug stock-out seems to be a disastrous result from lack of coordination" between federal and regional officials in combating the disease, Akrom Eltom, WHO's HIV/AIDS program leader in Moscow, said in a statement. "To earmark money is one thing, but one must also competently and professionally use that money," Rukavishnikov said, adding, "If the situation doesn't change, Russia could become a supplier of multiresistant forms of [HIV] to the whole world" (AP/Moscow Times, 6/21). According to Russian estimates, there are about 334,000 HIV-positive people living in the country. According to UNAIDS, the estimate is closer to 900,000, and other HIV/AIDS experts say the number likely is more than one million (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.