More than 330,000 infected with HIV in Russia - expert

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MOSCOW, September 23 (RIA Novosti) - More than 330,000 HIV cases have been registered in Russia, a top Moscow expert told officials from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE, Friday.

"We estimate the number of people infected with the HIV virus to be between 600,000 and one million," Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal Center for Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS, told a meeting of the PACE subcommittee on health held at the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, the State Duma.

"More than a half of these people do not even realize that they are infected," he said, adding that 7,500 people had already died of AIDS in Russia.

According to Pokrovsky, "the number of heterosexual population infected with HIV virus has increased and prospects do not look good for Russia."

He said AIDS could claim the lives of up to 100,000 people in Russia by 2020.

PACE expert Christine McCafferty said the growing number of women and children in Russia who had been infected with HIV virus reflected the global trend. She urged Russia to adopt a national strategy on the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Pokrovsky also said the government had been allocating insufficient funds for the treatment of AIDS patients. "Only 500 people can be treated in Russia this year with the help of budget funds," he said.

State Duma deputy Vera Oskina, who is also a member of Russia's delegation to PACE, said the 2006 state budget would allocate $6.86 million on anti-AIDS programs and the overall state expenditures on health would increase by 77%.

She backed the idea of a national HIV/AIDS strategy.

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