On Wednesday in Moscow, leading experts warned that Russia lacks the political will to combat an AIDS epidemic that could claim tens of thousands of lives within the next few years. "Russia remains among countries with the highest rates of the spread of the AIDS epidemic," said Natalia Ladnaya, a senior researcher at the Russian Federal AIDS Center, speaking to a conference of experts from the United States, Europe, and Asia. Officially, Russia has more than 300,000 registered HIV-positive residents, but the real number may be closer to 1.5 million--or about 2% of the Russian adult population, Ladnaya said. HIV has spread in Russia primarily through injection-drug use, but this year more than 40% of new HIV cases reported were young women infected through heterosexual intercourse, according to Ladnaya.
"In 2005, we won't have the funds to treat more than 10,000 people," Ladnaya said, even with projected foreign donations. State funding for AIDS research is inadequate, and top Russian officials need to commit to fighting the virus's spread, she said. Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal AIDS Center, warned earlier that as many as 1 million people in Russia may die of AIDS by 2008. Anneli Uuskula, an AIDS expert at Estonia's University of Tartu, said society as a whole must address the problem and that community and nongovernmental organizations must act. (AP)