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Regional AIDS conference opens in Russia

A regional AIDS conference opened in Russia on Wednesday, with experts urging the host nation to do more to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus HIV, particularly amongst drug users.

The two-day Eastern Europe and Central Asia Aids Conference (EECAAC) - the third of its kind - is taking place in Moscow.

Regional public health experts and researchers, in a statement released in Moscow Wednesday, noted Russia's success over the past five years in expanding access to AIDS treatment.

'It's time for the nation's leaders to make the same commitment to deliver universal access to services to prevent HIV infections,' Robin Gorna, executive director of the International Aids Society, who co-chairs the EECAAC was quoted as saying.

An estimated 1 million Russians are living with the AIDS virus, with 80 per cent of those infected with HIV being under the age of 30. Around 1.85 million Russians, or 2 per cent of adults, inject drugs. HIV can be transmitted when drug users share needles.

The response to injecting drug use in Russia is driven by criminalization, but evidence tells us that criminalization is counterproductive to both effective drug treatment and HIV prevention. In order to stem the tide of infections, Russia must embrace proven HIV prevention programmes driven by public health principles,' Gorna added.

The experts said that while Russia's neighbours, among them Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, had demonstrated the effectiveness of such programmes.

Representatives of around 60 countries in the region, as well as experts and organizations from other parts of Europe and the United States that are working to combat HIV/AIDS.


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