Thursday, 1 December 2011

Funeral held for Russia’s HIV prevention efforts

A protest featuring coffins and funereal music outside the Health Ministry served to bid a final farewell to HIV prevention and treatment in the country, activists conducting the protest said on Thursday, World AIDS day.

Russia is just one of only several countries, where the number of HIV positive people is increasing, according to the Russian-based Federal AIDS Research Center, and the rate of infection is to double in the next five years according its head Vadim Pokrovsky.

Since 2009, over 60,000 people every year have been diagnosed HIV positive.

Passers-by were bedazzled to see a funeral train marching down Ulitsa Ilinka, flanked with government offices, and some even followed the group to the Health Ministry.

Accidental onlookers took their mobile phones out to shoot the group standing in front of the grey building behind two coffins with signs “prevention” and “treatment” pinned on their lids.

“We’ve been staging these protest for years,” Sergei Golovin, one of the rally organizers from the movement Patsiensky Kontrol, or Patients’ Control, told, shortly after police rounded all the protesters from the site. “No-one ever went out to meet us from the ministry,” he added.

In some Russian regions, over 1 percent of population aged 15-55 has HIV, according to the center’s data. The numbers are exceptionally high for people between 25 and 35 years of age.

“It’s a terrifying number of 2.5 percent of men aged 30-35 who are registered as HIV positive, which means one in 40,” head of the center, Vadim Pokrovsky, told journalists.

Since 1987, when the officials started recording numbers, 636,979 HIV positive people have been officially registered in Russia, and 104,257 of them are now dead, according to Pokrovsky.

The ministry, however, seems to have a more positive view on the situation, according to chief specialists for HIV-diagnostics and treatment, Alexei Mazus.

“The epidemic in Russian has come to a new stage where it can be controlled,” he told RIA Novosti in an interview. The progress was due to healthcare officials, who carried out lifesaving programs with the backing from the state, he added.

Pokrovsky said, however, that his center’s research said the problem continued to grow.

“Over the past 10 moths 48,363 new cases have been found, which is by 9.6 percent more than for the same period next year,

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