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Some 26,000 people have contracted HIV in Russia since the beginning of this year
Some 26,000 people have contracted HIV, the virus causing AIDS, in Russia since the beginning of this year, a Russian health agency said Monday. "There are more than 353,000 registered HIV carriers in Russia today, including some 26,000 infected this year," the Federal Service for the Supervision of Consumer Rights and Human Welfare said in a news release. However, according to independent Russian experts and international organizations, the actual number of HIV carriers in the country may be close to a million. In earlier reports, the agency, known by its Russian acronym Rospotrebnadzor, said some 24,390 new HIV cases were detected in the country between January and September 2006, a 5% increase, year-on-year. More than 1,300 Russians, including 140 children, have died of AIDS since the nation recorded its first official case in 1987. About 11,000 more HIV carriers have died over the period of causes not directly related to the disease. Rospotrebnadzor's chief, Gennady Onishchenko, said Monday that this year has been a turning point in Russia's efforts to contain the spread of HIV/AIDS. He hailed as momentous "the allocation of 200 million rubles ($7.5 million) in federal budget funds for HIV prevention programs," and the launch of an ambitious government anti-AIDS project targeting high-risk groups. Intravenous drug use still accounts for the greater part of HIV/AIDS transmissions in Russia, but infection through unprotected sex is becoming increasingly common, with its share having grown to 45%, from just 6% five years ago. The Russian government has increased HIV spending 20-fold this year in an effort to provide treatment for at least 15,000 of the country's HIV-positive population, and to ensure more patients have access to anti-retroviral drugs. Russia put the issue at the top of its agenda when it took up the presidency of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations for the first half of 2006. In the run-up to World AIDS Day December 1, Onishchenko instructed Rospotrebnadzor's regional branches to step up their campaigns to raise public HIV/AIDS awareness and to explain the objectives behind the government's new nationwide project to curb the pandemic.
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