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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 18:25 GMT
Russia 'facing African levels of Aids'
Drug taking
Unlike Africa, drug taking is the main source of HIV
The head of Russia's anti-Aids programme has warned the country could face levels of infection similar to those in some African countries, unless action is taken to stop the epidemic.


We risk catching up with certain parts of Africa, where about 30% of the population are Aids patients

Vadim Pokrovsky
Vadim Pokrovsky said the government's approach to the problem was "light-minded".

He said more money was urgently needed to treat those infected and for testing and prevention.

The number of people infected with HIV, the infection which leads to Aids, has doubled over the past year, but Mr Pokrovsky said the real scale of the problem was still hidden.

'Explosion'

More than 100,000 new cases were registered over the past year, putting the total at about 182,000.

But Mr Pokrovsky believes that the true figure may be as high as one million.

"We risk catching up with certain parts of Africa, where about 30% of the population are Aids patients," he said.


There is a huge amount of needle sharing

Mark McKeown
Unlike Africa, the majority of Russian victims are infected by drug-taking. Most are between 15 and 30-years-old.

But many of those in the groups most at risk do not get proper testing, said Mark McKeown from the Children in Crisis organisation.

"There has been an explosion of HIV and Aids spread by needle use. There is a huge increase in intravenous drug-taking... and a huge amount of needle sharing," he told BBC News Online.

Depopulation

Mr Pokrovsky has condemned the level of government funding for anti-Aids measures, which is just $5.3m (6.1m euros). The treatment of a single Aids patient costs $10,000.

And he has warned that Russia's problem could, ultimately, be even more grave than that in Africa.

"There, unlike Russia, the high birth rate remedies the situation to some extent," he said.

Russia has been concerned for several years about the decline in its population due to a low birth rate combined with ill-health, alcoholism and poverty.

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