Johnson's Russia List
22 November 2003
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A CDI Project
The Lancet (UK)
Volume 362, Number 9397
22 November 2003
Global Fund approves grants to fight HIV/AIDS in Russia
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has approved the
first disbursements of a US$88·7 million grant to five non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) tackling HIV/AIDS in 10 of Russia's 89 regions. A
further $10·8 million for another consortium of NGOs and local health
agencies tackling tuberculosis in Siberia's Tomsk region has also been
approved. These are Russia's first approvals from the Global Fund, marking
a "significant new commitment to Russia", says Urban Weber, the Fund's
Tuberculosis kills about 30 000 people in Russia each year, and Russian HIV
transmission rates are possibly the highest in the world, with as many as 1
million people now infected.
In Moscow, Rian van de Braak, director of AIDS Foundation East West (AFEW),
one of the HIV/AIDS consortium members, says the money is intended to
stimulate a national response to HIV/ AIDS through programmes aimed at
infection prevention, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART),
counselling, and policy development. AFEW will focus on mother-to-child HIV
transmission, which increased five-fold last year.
In Tomsk, the money will support plans to tackle the high rates of
tuberculosis and multidrug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-
TB), and rapidly rising rates of HIV, by providing access to complete
tuberculosis treatment for 16 000 prisoners including 950 MDR-TB patients.
Donna Barry, Russia director for Partners in Health, a member of the
consortium that requested Global Fund assistance for tuberculosis in Tomsk,
says "the funds will allow for increased enrolment of patients". She
predicts "improved treatment outcomes for those suffering with MDR-TB".
Vinay Saldanha, who coordinates Canadian-supported HIV/AIDS clinical trials
with the Russian Federal AIDS Centre in Moscow, said the Fund's decision
may be the biggest news to date for action on AIDS in Russia, whose annual
federal AIDS budget is only $4 million. But Saldanha cautioned that
Russia's long-term insistence on acting "as a donor rather than a recipient
to the Fund" has deterred the government from applying to the Fund. "Given
the gravity of the Russian epidemic, the Russian government must act
quickly in applying to the Global Fund, or risk missing the opportunity
that the NGOs have capitalised on", Saldanha said.
At AFEW, Rian van de Braak acknowledged it was "unusual for a group of NGOs
to apply to the Global Fund" without federal government support. "The
Russian government has been slow" to apply for support, she explained, "so
we decided to go ahead."