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Children: the missing face of AIDS in Russia

© UNICEF/SWZK00792/Pirozzi
Child in a home for abandoned and HIV positive children in Kaliningrad

UNICEF/UNAIDS Global Campaign: Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS

Moscow, 14 November 2005 Every day more than 100 new HIV infections are registered in the Russian Federation, with children and young people affected as never before.

“The epidemic in Russia has a young face and is fuelled by stigma and discrimination,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States, “Children are at the very epi-centre of the epidemic, but not at the centre of the response.”

Over 21,000 babies have been born to HIV positive mothers – accounting for more than 6 per cent of all those living with HIV, and 2,000 have been abandoned in hospitals or orphanages.

According to UNICEF, 80% of all those with HIV in Russia are under 30 years of age, and over 70,000 people under the age of 19 are living with HIV.

The UNICEF/UNAIDS Global AIDS Campaign, Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS, is being launched in Russia today to draw attention to the growing impact of the epidemic on children.

A growing epidemic

Russia’s epidemic began slowly, with one case of HIV registered in 1987. By 2001, the country had the fastest growing epidemic in the world.

Today, around 1 per cent of the population is living with HIV. While there are 331,400 officially registered cases of HIV infection, the actual number is thought to be far higher. To date, 7,500 people have died as a result of AIDS and, if the epidemic is not halted, the number of deaths is likely to increase exponentially.

The epidemic, once limited to injecting drug-users, is now moving into the general population. Sexual transmission accounted for just 8% of registered cases in 2000. By 2004 the percentage had soared to 30% (among cases with a known mode of transmission).And the epidemic is becoming ‘feminized’, with the share of women living with HIV more than doubling in recent years, from 20% in 2000 to 43% in 2004.

The Government responds

The Government has a country-wide HIV and AIDS programme for 2002-2006, and a new programme for 2007-2010 is being developed. However, the total budget for HIV and AIDS in 2004 was only $19 million, or $0.14 per capita.  In 2005, the Federal budget allocated just $4.5 million for HIV surveillance, prevention, treatment and research.

UNICEF welcomes the September announcement by Russian President, Vladimir Putin, of a major increase in funding for HIV, demonstrating growing concern and awareness among policy makers. It looks forward to hearing what percentage will go to children.

On 27 September, the President said:

“In 2006, the funding (for HIV/AIDS) will increase 20-30 fold.  Up to three billion roubles ($105.2 million) will be allocated for these purposes so that all those who need treatment with expensive drugs will receive it.”

© UNICEF/SWZK00282/Pirozzi

About the UNICEF/UNAIDS campaign

The Global UNICEF/UNAIDS Campaign aims to achieve measurable progress for children based on internationally agreed goals in four areas:

§         Prevention of infection among adolescents and young people

§         Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission;

§         Provision of pediatric treatment;

§         Protection of orphans and vulnerable children.

The Ministry of Health and Social Development, with support from UNICEF has already scored some success with a scheme to prevent Mother to Child Transmission, which has reduced this transmission over the past three years (by how much?).

“If this progress can be sustained, it will be major breakthrough,” said Calivis. “and it will pave the way for progress in other areas. As always, the crucial question in a country of this monumental size, is how to go to scale with what works.”.

By November 2005, about 3,500 people living with HIV were receiving treatment at a cost of $1,500-$3,000 each per year.  Scaling up from 3,500 to 15,000 people in 2006 and to 30,000 people and more over the next two to three would be the major challenge as Russia’s AIDS centres have limited capacities.

UNICEF and UNAIDS in Russia support policy development on HIV and children. Work is already underway on the prevention of mother to child transmission, treatment, care, access to education for children living with HIV, prevention among young people through youth friendly services and the provision of solid information, and protection of children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

John Brittain, Communication Officer, UNICEF Russian Federation: Tel: (+7095) 933 8818, email: jbrittain@unicef.org.

 

 
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