HIV-infected people arrested on World AIDS Day

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HIV-infected people arrested in Moscow on World AIDS Day. The demonstrators wanted to draw attention to maladministration in the Russian supply of medicines.

Ten people infected with HIV used World AIDS Day to demonstrate the problems of AIDS patients in Russia with a demonstration in front of the government seat in Moscow. The demonstration ended with the arrest of those infected with HIV.

With posters on which the Ministry of Health was referred to as the "Ministry of Funeral", the HIV-infected people wanted to draw attention to the shortcomings in the supply of medicine to AIDS patients in Russia. In freezing cold, the ten demonstrators gathered outside the White House in Moscow and denounced the Ministry of Health's failings. In general, HIV-infected people in Russia are legally entitled to free therapy, but the supply of antiretroviral drugs is extremely poor. Many HIV-infected people cannot be treated with the appropriate means.

Even though the demonstration ended with the arrest of those infected with HIV, the Attorney General's Office has now confirmed for the first time that the authorities have been accused of numerous failures to purchase the drugs. On the website of the Attorney General's Office, "numerous irregularities" in connection with the purchase of medication for people infected with HIV and those with hepatitis are reported, as a result of which many patients could not be treated and in some cases the therapy even had to be stopped. According to the Prosecutor General's Office, the purchase of antiretroviral medicines only started in the fourth quarter this year. Some supply contracts had only been signed by the responsible authorities in November, while others had not yet been signed. There is considerable undersupply in hospitals and other facilities, where the corresponding medicines are often no longer available, the newspaper "Vedomosti" reported, referring to the statements made by the prosecutor.

As tens of thousands of people infected with HIV cannot be treated due to a lack of medication, those affected are increasingly taking to the streets for their rights. Charges against the responsible authorities, such as currently in Moscow, Kazan, Tula and Arkhangelsk, are no longer uncommon. Even the President Medvedev himself has already taken part in the discussion in view of the grievances and in August Tatiana Golikowa, Minister for Health and Social Affairs, asked to work towards improving processes and holding those responsible to account.

Wadim Pokrowski, head of the national Russian anti-AIDS center and the parliamentary group for the fight against AIDS, had already sharply criticized the Ministry of Health and criticized the fact that, for some unknown reason, it would not be possible to buy cheap medication at an early stage. Instead, the authorities would pay five to eight times the price for their delayed medication purchases, so that the supply is not only worse but also more expensive. The MPs and activists had therefore requested a parliamentary investigation into the practice of the authorities in November. According to reports by the newspaper "Vedomosti", however, only the organization of the Russian Anti-AIDS Center was examined more closely as a result of the request for investigation, and the members of parliament did not receive an answer to questions about common administrative practice.

According to Wadim Pokrowski, there is also criticism that Russia has no overall strategy to combat the spread of HIV. Pokrowski warns: “When it comes to the speed at which HIV is spreading here, things are looking worse than in Africa”, because around 150 to 160 people are infected with HIV every day across the country. According to official estimates, around 570,000 HIV-infected people live in Russia today, but experts assume that more than a million people are actually affected. Pokrowski believes that 130,000 of those officially suffering from AIDS would need treatment, but only just under 75,000 people are currently receiving appropriate medical care. Another problem with the spread of AIDS in Russia, according to the National Anti-AIDS Center, is that 70 percent of those infected are under 30 years of age. Given the problems, it is therefore understandable that the ten HIV-infected people wanted to use the demonstration to raise awareness of their concerns. The arrest of the activists, on the other hand, again does not shed light on the Russian authorities' handling of AIDS. (fp)

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