Baltimore Sun Examines Russia’s Plan To Highlight HIV/AIDS, Other Global Health Issues at G8 Summit
The Baltimore Sun on Sunday examined Russia's decision to highlight many global health issues, including HIV/AIDS, at the Group of Eight industrialized nations' summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, which begins on Saturday. According to the Sun, it is "not clear whether Russia's decision to highlight AIDS as a topic signifies an earnest commitment to fight the disease at home, or a way to win credit for addressing the global threat the disease poses without focusing on the domestic danger." Although Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2003 became the first leader of the country to mention HIV/AIDS, the "disease has still not received the attention it seemingly requires from the country with Europe's highest number of HIV[-positive] people," the Sun reports (Niedowski , Baltimore Sun, 7/9). Putin in March 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, 5/23). Russia has pledged $40 million though 2008 to the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Niedowski , Baltimore Sun, 7/9).
Sun Examines Resistance to Needle-Exchange Programs
The Sun on Sunday also examined the lack of needle-exchange programs to prevent the spread of HIV among injection drug users in Russia. Although the sharing of needles has been linked to at least 70% of the country's registered HIV cases, the "government continues to treat needle exchanges as a problem rather than a solution," the Sun reports. The reluctance of government officials to promote the exchanges "reflects a deeply rooted stigma surrounding drug use, as well as a mistaken belief that needle exchanges encourage it," according to the Sun. The government has forced many of the 60 "harm reduction" programs for drug users that remain open in the country to "struggl[e] for money and support from local officials," according to the Sun. Needle-exchange programs have operated in a "legal limbo" in the country for the last 10 years, the Sun reports. Law enforcement agencies first assumed they were illegal until changes in the law allowed exchanges if needles were distributed to prevent the spread of an infectious disease, according to the Sun. Guidelines on needle-exchange programs have yet to be released by the Health Ministry or the Russian Federal Drug Control Service. Alexander Mikhailov, deputy director of the drug control service, said the agency supports needle-exchange programs "[i]n principle," adding that they must operate out of government hospitals and clinics. In addition, IDUs must register for the programs and only licensed health workers can distribute clean needles, according to Mikhailov (Niedowski , Baltimore Sun, 7/9).