Russian Government Allocates USD 3.7 Million to Tackle AIDS

The Russian federal budget has allocated 115 million roubles (USD 3.65 million) in 2003 for measures to prevent AIDS and fight the disease. Vadim Pokrovsky, the head of the Russian Health Ministry's AIDS Research Centre, revealed this figure yesterday at a press conference entitled 'The AIDS Epidemic: Consequences for Russia'. Pokrovsky said that a further 300 million roubles (USD 9.5 million) are planned to be assigned from regional budgets. However, he added that this was ten times less that the minimum amount needed to successfully fight the 'plague of the 21st century.'

According to expert figures, between January 1, 1987 and March 1 ,2003 there have been 232,424 registered cases of HIV in Russia, of which 6,180 are children. AIDS has been diagnosed in 805 patients, including 191 children. Pokrovsky said that over this period 3,233 HIV-infected patients have died, of which 205 were children. 75% of HIV-infected people in Russia are men, and the majority are young people in the 17-25 age group (64.5%).

The head of the federal AIDS centre said that the main form of infection remains intravenous drug use (almost 90% of cases). However, doctors are extremely worried about the rising number of sexually transmitted infections among heterosexuals. In 2001 they made up 4.7% of all new cases, but in 2002 the figure rose to 12.1%. The third most common means of infection is mothers passing on the virus to their children. Most mothers who pass the disease on to their children are drug users.