Number of HIV/AIDS Cases in Russia Increasing, Health Official Says
Up to 1.3 million people are living with HIV in Russia, and the number of cases continues to rise, Vadim Pokrovsky, head of Russia's federal AIDS center, said on Tuesday, Reuters reports. According to Pokrovsky, Russia has recorded 402,000 HIV/AIDS cases, but more accurate estimates place the number between 1.2 million and 1.3 million. He also said that about 17,000 people out the 402,000 recorded cases have died from AIDS-related causes (Faulconbridge, Reuters, 5/15). About 40,000 new HIV cases were reported in 2006, Pokrovsky said. He added that the number of new cases reported in the first quarter of 2007 increased by 8% to 10% compared with the same period last year, RIA Novosti reports. He also said that between 100 and 110 new HIV cases are registered in Russia daily (RIA Novosti, 5/15).
Pokrovsky said that HIV cases are highest among injection drug users but that many new cases are spreading to the general population through heterosexual sex. According to Pokrovsky, this can be seen in the number of newly recorded cases that occur among women. Women accounted for 44% of the new HIV cases registered last year, he said. He also noted that an average of one out of every 50 men in Russia is HIV-positive, while in some cities the number is one out of every 10 men. A United Nations report released Tuesday said that HIV prevalence in Russia has an "inverse relationship to economic development," noting that the disease is "more widespread" in wealthier regions.
Pokrovsky said the government has increased overall funding for HIV/AIDS programs. Russia has allocated 200 million roubles, or about $7.75 million, for HIV prevention efforts this year out of the country's total budget of 5.3 billion roubles, or about $205.4 million. "The financing is sharply rising," but the "spending is not done entirely properly," Pokrovsky said. He added that a "very small amount of that money ... is directed to preventing the further spread of the epidemic," while "most of it is being used for treatment. That is good, but you need prevention too" (Reuters, 5/15).
According to Pokrovsky, awareness about HIV/AIDS among Russia's population is low. According to data from the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, 20% of residents can answer precise questions about HIV/AIDS, while half think the disease is transmitted through mosquito bites or by sharing food with HIV-positive people. Pokrovsky also stressed the importance of "not only handing out pamphlets and broadcasting programs about AIDS ... but also of systematically carrying out preventive measures encompassing various different age groups" (RIA Novosti, 5/15).