State Funding Not Reducing 10% Annual Growth in HIV

The number of registered HIV cases is growing 10 percent a year despite increased government funding, the country's anti-AIDS coordinator said Friday.

The government must spend the funds more wisely by focusing on prevention as well as treatment in order to slow the spread of HIV, said Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal AIDS Center.

Pokrovsky said he fears that the global economic crisis could threaten future funding.

Russia has registered a total of 471,000 people as HIV-infected, including more than 50,000 who have died of AIDS-related causes, Pokrovsky said. He told reporters Friday that the actual number of people with HIV was likely higher than 1 million.

The government says it budgeted 10.7 billion rubles ($445 million) for the cause last year — at least 50 times more than in 2005.

While officials say intravenous drug use remains the main way the virus is transmitted, cases of HIV being passed on by heterosexual intercourse are rising quickly.

Eighty-six percent of new HIV cases are the result of intercourse, according to the Moscow AIDS Center, which suggests that HIV is now affecting the general population rather than just prostitutes and drug addicts.

(AP, MT)