Russia is Recommended to Spend Money for HIV Prevention Among MSM in a More Rational Way

News4 February 2019

Response to HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (gays, bisexuals, etc.) and transgender people needs to be strengthened in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including Russia, the experts of the Eurasian Coalition on Male Health (ECOM) concluded. One of the reasons why the current situation is so deplorable is inefficiency in spending funds allocated to fight the epidemic.

This is stated in the recently published final report following up the meeting of international HIV service organizations representatives that took place in Tbilisi, Georgia, in May 2018.

As it is stressed in the report by the experts, the level of coverage for HIV prevention, diagnosis and treatment programs among key groups, including MSM, in these countries does not allow to achieve any significant progress in improving the epidemiological situation with regard to HIV and tuberculosis at the moment.

And the reason for that is the “shift” in financial investments intended for HIV prevention from scientifically based programs to “ineffective interventions in the current epidemiological context” and sporadic preventive measures.

“Epidemiological and monitoring systems in most countries of the region do not allow to build the proper cascade of services for MSM and trans people. Access of key populations to antiretroviral treatment in most countries of the region remains extremely low. Rapid HIV testing in low-threshold centers is often organized in a way that only one half of MSM who receive a positive result, reach medical facility to confirm the diagnosis,” the report points out.

It is noteworthy that Russian social activists reached the same conclusion earlier, stating in the fall of 2018 that the government was ineffective in spending money intended for HIV prevention. They provided a figure based on the public data analysis proving that 90% of all money allocated by federal and regional budgets in the country went to outside organizations, often advertising production companies, that have no experience in HIV prevention, and only 10% was received by socially oriented NGOs and other professionals.

It was also then, when the Russian Ministry of Health chief external expert in HIV diagnosis and treatment Evgeny Voronin heavily criticized regular orders for posters and billboards under the pretext of HIV prevention practiced by the government. “Highly efficient prevention programs are not about posters and booklets but anonymous HIV testing, treating HIV positive patients, PrEp and work with key populations,” stressed the expert.

The 1st regional consultation on HIV among MSM was held as far back as 8 years ago in Kiev, Ukraine. Since then the situation with HIV transmission among MSM has worsened surpassing a regional average of 5% (which means, on average, one out of 20 individuals in key populations is living with HIV).

AIDS.CENTER reported earlier that one in 5 gays in three major cities of Russia – Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Yekaterinburg – is living with HIV. In general there are about 1.5 million HIV positive people in the country.

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