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article imageAIDS Official: HIV cases in Russia surpass the one million mark

By Karen Graham     Jan 23, 2016 in Health
Moscow - Russia's top AIDS official claims there are over one million, possibly 1.5 million Russians who are now HIV-positive, as infection levels reach an all-time high.
Vadim Pokrovsky, the head of the federal AIDS Center, told Reuters on Thursday that Russia registered its one millionth HIV-positive patient Wednesday, a 26-year-old woman in the south of the country.
However, according to Reuters, Pokrovsky said the number of cases may be much higher, with up to 1.5 million people or one percent of the population being infected, based on his and other experts opinions. "The epidemic is gathering strength. Unfortunately, the measures that have been taken have clearly not been enough," he added.
If Pokrovsky's estimates are true, this means Russia has more cases of HIV than any other European country except Estonia. By comparison, the UK has 100,000 people who are HIV-positive, and the U.S. has 1.2 million people who are HIV-positive.
Describing the AIDS epidemic as being in "the transitional stage," Pokrovsky said the fear is that the country is on the threshold of moving from a "concentrated" epidemic, where HIV is prevalent in a subset of the population, to a "generalized" epidemic, where HIV rates among the population are sufficient to drive new infections.
About 204,000 people have died from AIDS in Russia since 1987. Up until that time, Russia denied that any HIV infections were occurring within the country. The AIDS Center estimates that by the year 2019, the number of AIDS cases will exceed 2.0 million, reports the Independent.
“The epidemic is gathering strength," Mr. Pokrovsky added. "Unfortunately, the measures that have been taken have clearly not been enough.
About 57 percent of Russians infected with the AIDS virus got it through intravenous drug use (IDU). Russia has a very large community of IDUs, numbering 1.8 million people, and 20 percent of this group have tested positive for the virus, according to Al Jazeera.
Only 30 percent of HIV-positive people in Russia receive antiretroviral medication needed to stop the virus from multiplying. The low percentage of people getting treatment is blamed on low oil prices, Western sanctions, and a falling ruble. But it goes further than these reasons.
According to a website called Pereboi.ru, which monitors the market for HIV medications, for the past six years, drugs necessary to treat AIDS have been either partially or totally absent from drug treatment centers. This is because Russia has opted to make their own antiretroviral medications, and there is concern over the quality of the medications.
There are also delays in AIDS testing because of an absence of reagents. All these problems have resulted in many AIDS patients either not getting tested or not having the three necessary medications to treat the disease, reports Meduza.
The Russian government has agreed to spend 40 billion roubles ($475.20 million) on fighting HIV/AIDS in 2016, yet Pokrovsky asked for almost double that amount.
More about Russia, Aids epidemic, over one million, Drug use, aids official
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