HIV cases in Russia pass the one million mark

Epidemic reaches record levels, according to top AIDS specialist, who warns true figures could be much higher.

    More than 1 percent of Russia's population in at least 10 regions had been recorded as having the virus for more than a year [AFP]
    More than 1 percent of Russia's population in at least 10 regions had been recorded as having the virus for more than a year [AFP]

    Russia's AIDS epidemic is at a dangerous tipping point after the number of people registered HIV-positive passed the one million mark, the country's top AIDS specialist said, warning that the rate of infection had reached record levels.

    Russia registered its millionth HIV-positive patient - a 26-year-old woman in the south of the country - on Wednesday, Vadim Pokrovsky, the head of the federal AIDS centre, told the Reuters news agency on Thursday.

    But he said the real number of HIV-positive Russians could be as high as 1.5 million, or 1 percent of the population, based on his and other expert estimates.

     WATCH MORE: Why do HIV cases keep rising in Russia?

    "The epidemic is gathering strength. Unfortunately the measures that have been taken have clearly not been enough," Pokrovsky said.

    He warned that Russia was "on the threshold" of moving from a concentrated epidemic, where HIV is highly prevalent in one subset of the population, to a generalised epidemic, where HIV rates among the general population are sufficient for sexual networking to drive new infections.

    "We're in a transitional phase," he said.

    AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

    Pokrovsky said 204,000 people had died of AIDS in Russia since the first case was recorded in 1987. He expected the number of new cases in 2015 to be at least 93,000, up from just under 90,000 in 2014.

    That, he said, would be the largest number of new cases since Russia began keeping data almost 30 years ago.

    The escalation comes as Russia struggles financially, beset by low oil prices, Western sanctions and a falling currency.

    READ MORE: Africa - where AIDS infections are dropping

    It plans to spend 40bn roubles (about $475m) on fighting HIV/AIDs in 2016. But Pokrovsky said 100bn roubles were needed.

    Almost 20 percent of the country's drug users and nearly 10 percent of the country's gay people were HIV-positive, he said.

    More than 1 percent of the population in at least 10 regions had been recorded as having the virus for more than a year.

    Government data shows 24,000 HIV-positive people died in 2014, the last full year for which data is available. Of those, around 12,000 died as a direct result of AIDS.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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