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Russian regional HIV vaccine center seeks $40-50 mln from budget

MOSCOW, February 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia intends to allocate from its federal budget about $40-50 million for a regional HIV vaccine development center between 2007 and 2009, the country's chief health official said Tuesday.

According to official statistics, cited by Gennady Onishchenko last December, there are currently more than 364,000 people in Russia, including over 2,290 children, registered with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. But independent experts suggest that over a million Russians, or roughly 1% of the country's population, are infected.

"We are currently drafting a government resolution intended for the next three-year fiscal period," Onishchenko said. "It proposes allocation of about $40-50 million from the Russian federal budget for a regional HIV vaccine development center."

Russia's proposal to establish such a center for Eastern European and Central Asian countries was backed by the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations at a July 15-17 summit in St. Petersburg, where efforts against infectious diseases were declared a priority.

Onishchenko also said it was impossible to progress further in vaccine development without financing, adding that there are "two candidate vaccines."

The Russian government increased spending on HIV control measures 20-fold last year in an effort to provide treatment for at least 15,000 Russians living with the virus, and to ensure that more patients have access to anti-retroviral drugs.

Russia put the issue at the top of its agenda for the first half of 2006, when it took up the presidency of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations.

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