Reportaje

President Putin calls for urgent measures to stem the HIV epidemic in Russia

26 April 2006

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President Vladimir Putin gathered the Presidium of the State Council to discuss the HIV epidemic in Russia. In a groundbreaking move, the State Council examined all aspects of the growing epidemic in the country and agreed on a set of measures that will strengthen Russia’s response to the epidemic in an unprecedented manner.

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On 21 April, President Vladimir Putin gathered the Presidium of the State Council to discuss the HIV epidemic in Russia. In a groundbreaking move, the State Council examined all aspects of the growing epidemic in Russia and agreed on a set of measures that will strengthen Russia’s response to the epidemic in an unprecedented manner. “The State Council meeting, chaired by President Vladimir Putin, marks an important milestone in the fight against AIDS in Russia. We welcome the decision to establish a National Commission to coordinate the Russian national response and a scaling up of prevention, treatment and care programmes” said UNAIDS Representative Bertil Lindblad. “The State Council reviewed all aspects of the epidemic and President Putin called for a comprehensive national strategy and the involvement of government ministries, civil society, the media and business".
 
Russia is facing an HIV epidemic concentrated among groups most at risk. As of today, 342,000 people living with HIV have been officially registered†. Experts believe, however, that this number is considerably higher. The fact that more and more women are contracting the disease and that most of the people living with HIV are under 35 is particularly worrying.

At the opening of the State Council, President Putin emphasized the urgent need of a more efficient AIDS response at all levels. “This is a serious situation that requires us to take the appropriate action. We need more than words; we need action, and the whole of Russian society must get involved. Of course, the people directly involved in dealing with HIV infection should take the lead in this area, but politicians, teachers, cultural figures and the mass media should all play an active part in this work” said President Putin.

The President called for more accurate monitoring of the HIV epidemic and for improved coordination between the federal ministries and agencies in their work. Carrying out preventive work among groups most at risk is considered of vital importance in scaling up Russia’s national AIDS response.

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To achieve these objectives, Russia plans to establish a long-term strategy. The previous five-year sub-programme on HIV and AIDS ends this year. Over this period the rate of HIV infection was reduced from 88,000 cases in 2001 to 35,000 cases last year. The national health care project planned significant funding to prevent, diagnose, and treat HIV and viral hepatitis. Over 3 billion rubles ($109 million US) have been allocated for this year alone.

With respect to this, Russia will develop new accurate and objective HIV monitoring tools that meet common international standards. These new tools will enable Russia to make a real evaluation of the causes of the epidemic and the effectiveness of medical and social preventive measures.

The launch of a major wide reaching information campaign has been planned. The programme for the next five years will include prevention measures aimed at groups most at risk and teenagers. A good number of such projects and programmes are already underway in Russia, but they were not yet united by a common strategy.

Finally, the presidium of Russia's State Council has decided to set up a special government commission to review how the country deals with its growing problem of HIV infections. At Russia’s initiative, the AIDS issue has been included on the agenda for the upcoming G8 summit in St Petersburg.

† Source: Presidium of the State Council

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