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AIDS in Russia: what Scientists Think and what They Actually Do
May 24, 2006 17:26

InformNauka information agency and International Science and Technology Centre (ISTC) have recently organized a so-called science café – a table for discussing scientific problems, where the most recent meeting covered issues of AIDS and HIV in Russia. Mass media and public were following speeches of eminent experts in studying HIV virus, its propagation and genetic diversity, in designing diagnostic systems, immunoprophylactic vaccines and medication.

Academician V.V. Pokrovsky, director of Federal Science and Research Centre For Preventing and Fighting AIDS, painted a dark-coloured picture for his listeners. Most of them found mentioned statistics to be shattering. Russia has over a million HIV-positive citizens, 350 thousand of which heed medication. At the same time, only 3.5 thousand receive efficient medical support – 1% of those, who really need to be treated. Several regions are HIV trouble spots: 0.8% of population in the Irkutsk region is on record, but experts tend to think that real numbers exceed this record three-fold; Norilsk region has about 1% HIV-positive residents. The worst situation with HIV is registered in industrially developed zones – Ural, Khanty-Mansiysk, Irkutsk and etc – and no wonder: AIDS is known to be the “curse of cities”. Many HIV-positive people are registered in Sverdlovsk and Samara regions; Lipetsk region goes the last. Moscow is somewhere in the middle of this sad rating; Saint Petersburg is rated higher than the Russian capital. According to V.V. Pokrovsky, we should start asking ourselves tough questions – the situation with HIV in Russia is worse that in Europe and in the United States.

Main distinctive feature of Russian AIDS is that the majority of virus carriers are young. Until recently, drug addicts dominated among HIV-positive ones – now heterosexual sexual contacts (unprotected sex, etc) become dominant pattern for being infected.

Modern medicine is able to support active life of HIV-positive population, but medication is very expensive – between $5.5 and $15 thousand per year. Only 0.18 rubles ($ 0.007) are spent per person a year on preventing AIDS – compare with $3 spent for same purpose in the United States.

How did AIDS appear on the face of the world? Professor Sidorovich (Russian Academy’s of Sciences Institute of Immunology) answers this question. One of his hypotheses blames poliovaccine extracted from green monkey’s cell culture. As for African population – it should have received the virus directly from monkeys. According to some scientists, chimpanzees have the same HIV Type I as human beings have – but monkey are miraculously not infected. This fact appears to be interesting for medical professionals, because it can tell a lot about resistance mechanisms.

Professor Sidorovich told the audience about Russian anti-HIV vaccine, and another eminent scientist – Galegov G.A. from Russian Academy’s of Medical Sciences Institute of Virology – presented his recent development: “Phosphasit”, aka “Nikovir”, medical agent, inhibiting one of the key enzymes for virus’s proliferation. Burshtein M.A. – from the same Institute of Virology – informed the audience about other anti-HIV medication developments – analogues (modified derivatives, to be more exact) of widely known (and extremely cheap!) anti-flu agent rimantadine. These agents are non-toxic and affect the virus on the earliest stage of its penetration into the cell.

The audience welcomed a man, who has personal scores with HIV – several years ago Igor found out that he was HIV-positive, and now he lives and fights the virus. Being the leader of “Shagi” (Steps) social movement for those living with HIV, Igor helps other HIV-positive people. He says that society slowly starts to change its attitude towards HIV-positive people – of course, young ones are initially tolerant and senior citizens are more conservative.

AIDS in Russia is still a big burning issue despite endeavors of science and scientists. Of course, we need new home-made pharmaceuticals, which cost 5-10 times less than foreign ones, as Uryvaev L.V., head of the Russian Academy’s of Medical Sciences Expert Council on AIDS, said. Those, who need medication, are desperate to get it. About 1% of those, who are in need of medication, get funds for buying them from federal or local budget – and what about other 99%?

Professionals conclude: Russia lacks national concept for fighting AIDS! This year appears to be the first one, when the state allocated enough funds for this purpose – we should spend them with maximum effect. The country should finally start to fight for its youth, shouldn’t it?

Kizilova Anna


Tags: Russian scientists Russian science    

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