Ukrainian health official reports 20-fold decrease in prices of AIDS

A Ukrainian health official said Wednesday that prices for AIDS and tuberculosis drugs have decreased by 20 times, crediting what he called effective measure to fight corruption.

Deputy Health Minister Valentyn Snisar claimed that corruption among top health officials under former President Leonid Kuchma, whose term ended in January 2005, led to the purchase of antiretroviral drugs at up to 27 times what they should have cost. Kuchma's decade in office was marred by corruption.

Meanwhile, the head of a ministry department in charge of combatting diseases including AIDS, said the government hoped to persuade the World Bank to revive a US$60 million ( Ђ 50 million) project on combating HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The project was suspended last month because of Ukraine's sluggish implementation.

Oleksandr Fedko said "fruitful talks" have been held, and that he expected a World Bank decision on the issue after the government submits a report in July.

The bank suspended the grant after complaining that there had been little progress in implementing the program. AIDS activists warned that government apathy could also jeopardize other international HIV/AIDS funds to Ukraine.

Ukraine has one of the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in Europe. Government officials say nearly 77,000 people have been registered as HIV-positive since the first reported case in 1987. Experts, however, have suggested that as many as 500,000 people, 1 percent of Ukraine's population, are infected? reports the AP.


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