Last year the Russian government and the World Bank signed an agreement on the allocation to Russia of a loan to combat tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. AIDS will claim only 50 million dollars of that sum," Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the federal anti-AIDS centre, said in an exclusive interview with RIA Novosti. He is attending the 15th international conference on AIDS.
"Such a distribution of funds indicates that Russia considers TB to be a greater problem than AIDS," he said.
"The current figure of registered TB cases is 350,000. But their number is diminishing, TB lends itself well to treatment," said Pokrovsky. "Russia has 285,000 registered HIV patients, but this disease is untreatable, and these people will remain infected for the rest of their lives unless an anti-AIDS drug is invented." But he said "one should not think that AIDS is a lesser problem than TB."
It was only recently that Russians began to be infected with AIDS, the expert stressed. "The first noticeable outbreak occurred in 1995-1996, and the maximum growth of those infected was reported in 2000," Pokrovsky noted. "Clinical manifestations of the disease appear 8 to 10 years after the infection (when AIDS develops). In 2000, 83,000 HIV-infected people were registered, which means that tentatively 83,000 will develop AIDS in 2008. This does not include those who do not know they are infected - they will be identified when they show AIDS symptoms. All these are young people who do not come to be examined just for the sake of it, out of their free will."
In that way, the expert concluded, "a huge problem may hit us. About a million Russians may in the foreseeable future - before 2020 - die from AIDS."
Pokrovsky emphasised: "We are now doing everything to attract additional financial resources and grants to combat AIDS and to get armed with new technologies." According to him, the current conference in Bangkok is very important for specialists and people living with HIV/AIDS.