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2005-09-29-Russian President Putin Calls HIV/AIDS 'Serious Problem' in Country, Pledges $105M To Fight Disease
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in a live nationwide television and radio broadcast called HIV/AIDS a "serious problem" and pledged to allocate about $105 million in 2006 to help fight the disease, Bloomberg News reports. The government so far this year has committed about $4.55 million to fight HIV/AIDS (Bloomberg News , 9/27).
"Next year, funding will be increased 20- to 30-fold ... keeping in mind that all those in need of medication, however, expensive, should have them," Putin said. In addition, Putin said that HIV/AIDS in Russia should not be considered an epidemic. "Recent surveys and statistical data confirm that the problem is very acute indeed, yet its character is not that of an epidemic," he said (RIA Novosti, 9/27).
Putin made the comments as he answered more than 70 questions from around the country during a three-hour call-in show broadcast live on television and radio. Nearly one million people submitted questions for the show via television, telephone, e-mail and fax, and it was Putin's fourth such appearance since taking office in 2000 (Bloomberg News , 9/27).
"This is a great victory" for all nongovernmental organizations that have been seeking to bring attention to HIV/AIDS, Igor Sadreev, a spokesperson for the Moscow office of AIDS Foundation East West, said. According to Sadreev, the official number of HIV-positive Russians, about 330,000, is about one-third of the actual number. "Russia is still in the epidemic phase of HIV infection," Sadreev said, adding, "I don't know how long it will be until we reach the point that other Western countries have, where infection rates plateau" (Bloomberg News , 9/27).