Insufficient Government Intervention Contributing to Spread of HIV in Russia, Official Says
The number of registered HIV cases in Russia is increasing by 10% annually despite increased federal funding for HIV/AIDS efforts, Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the government-funded Federal AIDS Center, said on Friday, the AP/Google.com reports. According to Pokrovsky, Russia's rising HIV prevalence likely stems from the government's focus on HIV/AIDS treatment instead of prevention.
Pokrovsky estimates that more than one million people in Russia -- or almost 1% of the country's population of 142 million people -- are HIV-positive. However, Russia officially has registered only 470,000 HIV cases, Pokrovsky said, adding that the country registers about 130 new HIV cases each day. According to experts, a large number of HIV-positive people in Russia are injection drug users. In addition, many people are unaware of HIV risk factors because of denial, insufficient information and social stigmas, the AP/Google.com reports. According to Pokrovsky, many regional governors in Russia "have simply refused to acknowledge the problem" of HIV/AIDS, while others have chosen to increase funding for the disease rather than promote awareness about the issue. Pokrovsky said that Russia appears to have "no national policy" on HIV/AIDS and is "running in place" while the disease spreads.
Pokrovsky encouraged the government to develop a clear strategy for publicizing HIV/AIDS-related issues and spend money wisely to maximize results. "Everyone needs to understand that [HIV] is a threat to the nation, and it's necessary to mobilize as one would for war," he said. According to the AP/Google.com, Russia's government said it allocated about $445 million for HIV/AIDS-related efforts last year, which was 50 times more funding than in 2005. Pokrovsky said the government will spend about $270 million for HIV/AIDS programs this year, which includes $193 million for treating 30,000 HIV-positive people and $7.6 million for prevention efforts. Pokrovsky said that HIV prevention funding is inadequate and is "the weakest point" in Russia's HIV/AIDS efforts. "We are doing practically nothing" to prevent new HIV cases, he added.
The government reduced HIV/AIDS funding because of the financial crisis, and Pokrovsky said that future funds also could be at risk. He also expressed concern that prevention funding could be misspent, citing an example of a $3.6 million HIV/AIDS awareness television program that aired at 8:30 a.m., a time when many high-risk populations were unlikely to view the show (Gutterman, AP/Google.com, 11/21).