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Russia Acknowledges AIDS Drug Shortage
  NY Times
Published: July 11, 2006
MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's chief epidemiologist said Tuesday that the country was suffering a shortage in HIV medicines and acknowledged that bureaucratic bungles had contributed to the problem.
Gennady Onishchenko's comments reinforced complaints that AIDS activists made last month of interrupted deliveries of antiretroviral drugs across Russia.
''A problem in the sufficiency of antiretroviral drugs in Russia exists,'' Onishchenko said at a news conference. ''We know about this issue and are trying to regulate it, but I will say that it won't be solved right now.''
Even as he promised to ramp up the number of HIV/AIDS patients being treated by the state to 15,000, Onishchenko warned that Russian public health authorities would also have to deal with a rising number of people suffering from the disease.
Onishchenko held the news conference before the Group of Eight industrialized nations summit in St. Petersburg later this week, where infectious diseases will be among the main topics on the agenda.
Onishchenko said he hoped ''the headache called the G-8'' would lead to more international cooperation in tackling the a feared influenza pandemic as well as AIDS.
Russia has 334,000 registered HIV-infected people. But the U.N. AIDS agency puts the figure at nearly 900,000, and others say the total could be above 1 million -- around 1 percent of Russia's population.
Onishchenko admitted that there were problems in the distribution of antiretroviral drugs to Russia's far-flung regions.
''There is, let's say, a full range of treatments in Moscow, but they are lacking somewhere in Siberia,'' Onishchenko said.
The reasons for the problem included ''the inflexibility of distributors, an untimely order that was made, and even vulgar issues like an incorrectly calculated amount of necessary treatment,'' Onishchenko said.
Onishchenko noted that the stigma applied to HIV-infected people in Russia was hindering the fight to stem Russia's growing AIDS epidemic, which is rapidly spreading beyond the traditional risk groups into the wider population through heterosexual sex, with young people particularly vulnerable.
''This stigmatization of society, and discrimination, are the main obstacles to solving this problem,'' Onishchenko said. ************

Yesterday this news was disseminated.
Russia to offer free treatment for HIV/AIDS in 2006

11/ 07/ 2006
MOSCOW, July 11 (RIA Novosti) - As many as 15,000 HIV-positive Russians will have access to free drugs and therapies in 2006, the country's chief medical officer said Tuesday.
Gennady Onishchenko said about 20% of Russia's 350,000 officially registered carriers of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, would be able to benefit from a free treatment program at its initial stage this year, but that the figure could double in 2007.
He said the main challenge facing the program was that most of the HIV/AIDS patients were marginalized.
"Many of them fear disclosure of their personal information by doctors," he said. "Society, too, behaves toward these people in a highly aggressive and selfish way."
The Russian government has allocated some 4.1 billion rubles ($152 million) for a national project to combat HIV/AIDS in 2006, Onishchenko said.
Measures against AIDS and other deadly infectious diseases rapidly spreading across the world are high on Russia's formal agenda for the Group of Eight summit it will be hosting this weekend.
Western countries have repeatedly criticized Russia for not doing enough to tackle its fast-growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to independent observers, well over a million Russians, or roughly 1% of the country's population, are infected.
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