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Over 100 new HIV cases are reported in Russia every day
Over 100 new HIV cases are reported in Russia every day, a senior member of the Russian upper chamber of parliament said Tuesday. Speaking at a roundtable dedicated to ways of improving state policy to curb the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in Russia, Valentina Petrenko also compared official and independent HIV statistics in the country. "The overall number of registered HIV cases among Russians exceeded 370,000 as of October 2006," Petrenko said. "But the registered cases could be one-third of the actual number of infected people." The Central Research Institute of Pandemics has said there are 800,000 to 1,100,000 HIV carriers in Russia. The Russian government has been repeatedly criticized for not doing enough to tackle its accelerating HIV/AIDS epidemic. The UNAIDS program said that the pandemic in Russia and other post-Soviet states is growing faster than in any other region of the world, with the number of HIV cases having risen 20-fold in less than a decade Petrenko criticized the national healthcare system, which does not allow the disease to be fought effectively. There are as few as 103 medical centers in Russia specializing in HIV/AIDS, and they are often as far as 400 kilometers (248 miles) away from patients. And there are only 300 medical staff qualified to carry out anti-retroviral therapy - the only method of treating AIDS available - in the whole country, which "does not correspond to the scale of the pandemic and the amount of aid needed by AIDS carriers." The senator also pointed to poor drug supply, which is half that in Western Europe. And anti-retroviral drugs are not affordable for the majority of Russians. Russia's cooperation with the UNAIDS program has brought down the cost of one course of anti-retroviral treatment from $6,000 to $1,400. Now that Russia produces some of the medications itself, Health Minister Mikhail Zurabov has promised that a course of treatment may become as cheap as $800. Russia's chief doctor, Gennady Onishchenko, said in July 15,000 that HIV-positive Russians will have access to free anti-retroviral drugs and treatment in 2006, and that this figure could double in 2007. And Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking on the sidelines of the G8 summit, said all people infected with HIV will have access to anti-retroviral drugs by the end of the decade, if programs now in the making are implemented. "We must take drastic measures to regulate medical aid to HIV-infected people, or otherwise Russia will face a higher incidence of the disease and a higher death toll," Petrenko said.
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