Russia registers 363,000 HIV cases

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MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia has registered over 363,000 people living with HIV-AIDS, including 2,322 children, chief medical doctor Gennady Onishchenko said, a news agency has reported.

Just under half of the HIV-positive children, 1,059, were infected before birth by their mothers, Onishchenko was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

He also said 27,250 new cases of HIV infection had been registered since the start of the year.

"Nearly 60 percent of the infections are concentrated in 13 Russian regions, particularly Sverdlovsk, Moscow, Samara and Irkutsk, as well as the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg," Onishchenko said, ITAR-TASS reported.

About 15,000 people will be able to receive anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) -- a treatment that can prolong and enhance the life of people infected with HIV -- by the end of the year, and 30,000 will have access to the drugs in 2007, he added.

The Russian government raised federal funding to fight AIDS by a factor of 20 this year to 3.1 billion rubles (115 million dollars).

Local HIV/AIDS activists had long denounced the low level of federal funding devoted to fighting the disease, which has been a factor in the chronic shortage of ARVs in the country.

According to the Federal AIDS Center, the real number of HIV cases in Russia may be as high as 1.5 million -- slightly more than one percent of the Russian population.

source - AFP