Putin says US$105 million will be spent on HIV/AIDS funding next year

Russia's funding for HIV/AIDS will increase more than 20 times next year to three billion rubles (US$105 million, Ђ87.5 million), Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.

In a nationwide televised question-and-answer session, President Vladimir Putin said that this year's AIDS budget of 130 million rubles (US$4.55 million, Ђ3.8 million) was "practically nothing" for a country Russia's size, the AP informs.

However, Putin denied that the disease in Russia, with a population of around 145 million, had reached epidemic proportions.

Western and Russian experts warn that HIV/AIDS is spreading at a devastating pace in Russia, with an estimated 1 million people infected, three times the number officially recorded. But Vadim Pokrovsky, the head of Russia's Federal AIDS Center, has long complained of a lack of state funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

Earlier this year, Pokrovsky said that the annual budget for measures to halt the spread of the disease should be at least 4.5 billion rubles (US$157.6 million, Ђ131.3 million).

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