|Child in a home for abandoned children, some of whom are HIV-positive, in Kaliningrad, Russia.|
MOSCOW, Russia, 14 November 2005 – The UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign was launched in Russia today. The highlight of the launch event was provided by Tamara Manannikova, who spoke about her adoption of an HIV-positive baby, Polina.
At the time of adoption, Polina was not given long to live by her doctors. Now, three years later, she is doing well thanks in part to Tamara’s round-the-clock care and support.
But there are still many more children like Polina in Russia who are in desperate need of the same support. According to Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, “The epidemic in Russia has a young face and is fuelled by stigma and discrimination. Children are at the very epicentre of the epidemic, but not at the centre of the response.”
Over 21,000 babies in Russia have been born to HIV-positive mothers – accounting for more than 6 per cent of all those living with HIV. Some 2,000 have been abandoned in hospitals or orphanages.
According to recent estimates, 80 per cent 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.
A growing epidemic
Russia’s epidemic began slowly, with one case of HIV registered in 1987. By 2001, the country had one of the fastest growing rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence 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 dramatically.
The epidemic, once limited to injecting drug-users, is now moving into the general population. The percentage of cases accounted for by sexual transmission has soared. And the epidemic is becoming ‘feminized’, with the share of women living with HIV more than doubling in recent years.
The government responds
The Russian 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.”
The Doctor’s warning was unequivocal: it was unlikely that tiny Polina would ever be able to even sit upright. But Tamara decided to bring her home and do her best to make Polina feel better. Read Polina’s story.
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