Number of HIV-infected Russians to reach million

HIV has stepped over the lines of traditional risky groups and became a real threat to the entire population

There are 38 million HIV-infected people living in the world. Five million of them became HIV-positive last year, which was more than in previous years. In Russia the number of HIV-positive people reaches 860,000. The majority of them are people under 30 years of age. The number of women among HIV-positive people has increased too. These are some of the highlights of the report made by the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS, which has been recently exposed to the public eye in seven countries of the world, including Russia.

The UN makes such reports every two years. The latest report is to provide the world community with the most precise picture of the incurable virus spreading in the world today. UN specialists and Russia's Chief Sanitary Doctor Gennady Onischenko say the number of infected people is growing very fast. According to the report, 14,000 people became infected in 2003 on daily basis. Thirty-eight million are infected in the world in total. A half of them is women.

Gennady Onischenko said, 283 thousand Russians are diagnosed with HIV. However, the UN report mentions another figure - 860 thousand. Russia's chief sanitary doctor said, HIV-positive people can be found in every Russian region now. The number of infected people has already exceeded the level of 1000 people in 37 units of the Russian Federation. The situation is the worst in the Sverdlovsk, Samara, Irkutsk, Moscow and St.Petersburg regions. The infected people are usually aged between 15-29 years, up to 50 percent of them are women.

HIV in Russia is currently taking shape of a sexually-transmitted disease. Drug addiction is becoming less frequent as a reason of HIV infection. Doctors say a lot of infected drug addicts transmit the disease to their sexual partners who may have nothing in common with narcotics. However, a syringe is still on top as the most frequent way to transmit the virus in human blood. Therefore, HIV has stepped over the lines of traditional risky groups and became a real threat to the entire population. Gennady Onischenko said he knew only one case when an infected person managed to preserve a normal social status: a HIV-positive Russian girl could have higher education, find a good job and give birth to a healthy daughter. However, Mikhail Rukavishnikov, member of the regional public organization Community of People Living with HIV/AIDS, said there were a lot of such people. "I know a HIV-infected girl who works as a lawyer in a very respectable company. She got married after she learned of her diagnose. Her husband is HIV-negative, they are raising a healthy daughter. Another friend of mine is a CEO in an advertising agency. He learned about the diagnose five years ago. He had a family at that time and they still live together," Mikhail Rukavishnikov said.

As a rule, when people find out they are infected, they experience a very strong shock and stress. However, as they collect more and more information about the virus, they realize that the situation is not that horrible. "A lot of people only knew that AIDS was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century and that it could not be cured. They knew nothing about the treatment which allows to live a long life with the virus, albeit without a complete recovery," Rukavishnikov said.

With reference to the WHO Mikhail Rukavishnikov said 50 thousand Russian people are in need of such treatment, although very few of them can afford it. A patient would have to spend 10-15 thousand dollars a year on therapy. One has to reduce the costs of medicines to 500-1000 dollars a year. The Ministry for Healthcare and Social Development is presently working on a special project.

Unfortunately, the UN report said nothing about scientific developments on the vaccine against AIDS. UN AIDS expert Eduard Karamov said the vaccine prepared by the Immunology Institute of the Russian Healthcare Ministry was ready for clinic tests. Two other Russian vaccines developed in Novosibirsk have been tested on animals. Scientists believe they can be tested on volunteers in the nearest future.

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Author`s name Olga Savka