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Number of HIV-infected Women in Russia Growing
  Created: 08.06.2006 15:19 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 15:19 MSK, 1 hour 46 minutes ago MosNews
Russia's chief medical officer, Gennady Onishchenko, raised concerns at a Moscow conference on HIV/AIDS in Eurasia Thursday over the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS among women, echoing comments made by other health officials that the disease was spreading at increasing rates through sexual contacts.
According to the RIA Novosti news agency, Vadim Pokrovsky, head of Russia's federal AIDS research center, warned in April that 1% of the population aged between 18 and 23 was infected and that most new cases resulted from sexual contacts rather than from sharing dirty needles, long considered the prime source of the disease in Russia.
Onishchenko stressed that feminization of HIV was a particular concern because women who have contracted the virus through sexual contacts may pass it on to their babies.
Russia is already facing a demographic crisis, as the population is declining by 700,000 a year, and an AIDS epidemic could have calamitous consequences for the country, said President Vladimir Putin in his May 10 state-of-the-nation address.
Onishchenko said particular attention should be paid to studying how HIV/AIDS is transmitted. This issue will be high on the agenda of the summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations in St. Petersburg in July, he said.
The official also called on civil society to contribute more to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
"It's good that public organizations, the Russian Orthodox Church, and members of the business community and the government have already been engaged in HIV prevention," he said. "But this is insufficient. More members of civil society have to become involved in finding a solution to this problem."
Onishchenko said more than 350,000 Russians suffer from HIV/AIDS, but independent experts have suggested that the real number may be close to a million.
An international parliamentary conference on HIV/AIDS opened in the Russian capital Thursday. The conference, HIV/AIDS in Eurasia and the G8's Role in the Fight against the Epidemic, is being held in the week of the 25th anniversary of the first case AIDS being discovered in San Francisco. It is the second such event to be held in Moscow within a month, following the European and Central Asian AIDS conference in May.
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