Russia should push forward on proposal to build HIV vaccine center, experts say

The creation of such a center is to be on the agenda of the Group of Eight summit in July in St. Petersburg.

Russia has come under criticism for being laggard and ineffective in addressing HIV infection and AIDS treatment. Official figures show about 334,000 Russians are infected with the virus, but many observers say the more likely figure is well over 1 million, roughly 1 percent of the country's population.

Andrei Kozlov, head of the St. Petersburg Biomedical Center, told a round-table discussion that the government needed to make vaccine production a priority on the scale of building a nuclear weapon or sending people into space.

He also called on Russian businesses to play a greater role in funding such research, which he said could result in late-stage testing of prospective vaccines in four to seven years.

"We must do this. Either we win or we will die. ... we have no other alternative. We are obligated to do this," Kozlov said.

Economist Yevgeny Nadorshin, meanwhile, said that by the time there is late-stage testing of prospective vaccines, the drag on Russia's economy by people falling ill and dying from AIDS would be substantial, according to the AP.

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