Russian to double spending on HIV care next year

MOSCOW: Russia will double its spending on HIV care and prevention next year in the face of a growing epidemic, the country's health minister announced on Friday.

Veronika Skvortsova earlier this week raised the alarm about the HIV epidemic in Russia, saying that it would spiral out of control by the end of decade if the funding for treatment is not raised. She said that with the current funding the government can provide care for less than a quarter of HIV-positive patients in Russia.

Skvortsova said on Friday that the Russian budget will allocate more than $600 million next year to double this year's spending. Some of the funding, according to Skvortsova, will go to NGOs who help to raise HIV awareness in Russia.

HIV treatment became less affordable in Russia after a number of NGOs had to suspend their operations in order to comply with a Russian law clamping down on organizations receiving foreign funding. The 2012 foreign agents law imposed severe penalties on recipients of foreign grants engaged in loosely defined political activities. Victims of the backlash were as varied as environmental activists and NGOs helping HIV patients.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev earlier this week said the number of HIV-positive Russians grows by 10 percent every year. It is expected to hit 1 million by the end of the year.