Feature story

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation discusses financial crisis with UN agencies

10 March 2009

On 7 March 2009, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation hosted a meeting of UN Heads of Agencies in Geneva to focus on the impact of the global financial crisis.

On 7 March 2009, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Mr Sergei Lavrov, hosted a meeting of UN Heads of Agencies in Geneva to focus on the impact of the global financial crisis.

This was the first meeting of UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. At the discussion, Michel Sidibé expressed his concern that the impact of the global financial crisis threatens to roll-back the hard-won progress made in the global response to AIDS if it results in donors not fulfilling their global commitments to increase funding for AIDS to reach universal access goals, and, if governments are less able to afford to buy essentials such as HIV testing kits and life-saving antiretroviral drugs.

The UNAIDS Executive Director articulated his vision of how the financial crisis also represents an opportunity for countries and international organizations to pursue much needed reforms, to refocus on results at country level, and to deliver more with less. He also cited UNAIDS as model of UN reform, being a joint programme across 10 United Nations agencies and programmes, delivering coordinated results at global and country level.

At the meeting with Mr Lavrov, Michel Sidibé encouraged Russia’s continued leadership to ensure stable financing for AIDS, health and development. The Russian government has become the primary funder of the national AIDS response and has made significant progress towards achieving its universal access targets in the following areas: prevention of mother to child transmission, scaling up HIV testing and counselling, expanding the coverage of medical supervision, and providing access to treatment (which has increased from 15,000 people in 2006 to 55,000 in 2008).

Despite a growing number of HIV prevention activities in the country, Russian and international experts agree that coverage of most prevention programme especially for vulnerable groups is insufficient. HIV prevention services are reaching only 39% of sex workers, 17% of men who have sex with men, and 24% of people who inject drugs. In addition, high levels of stigma prevent those most-at-risk and marginalized in society actively seeking AIDS services.

However, the Government of Russia has recently pledged additional financing for HIV programmes, including prevention. Under the leadership of the Minister of Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation Ms Tatiyana Golikova, the government’s HIV Commission formally adopted Russia’s universal access targets in March 2008.

UNAIDS looks forward to continuing work with the government of Russia on national and regional initiatives and on strengthening partnerships across the region.

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