Russian AIDS epidemic exploding despite dip in data

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 11 2002 12:00 AM ET

More than 43,000 new HIV cases were registered in Russia in the first 11 months of 2002, down more than 50% percent from the 87,000 cases registered during the same period last year. But these official statistics are misleading, said Vadim Pokrovsky, the country's top AIDS expert and director of the Center for AIDS Prevention and Treatment. Pokrovsky said the national Health Ministry has stopped paying for HIV antibody tests, forcing individual regions to pick up the costs or to stop offering the tests. That means fewer Russians are being tested, and as such a large number of HIV-infected people are not being identified and reported. Pokrovsky estimates that between 800,000 and 1.2 million Russians are currently infected with HIV, while the official total stands at 220,545 HIV cases. Russia spends only about $3 million each year on treatment for people infected with HIV, and allocates just $780,000 to HIV prevention in the nation that is home to more than 145 million people.