About 62,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in Russia in 2011, which is five percent more than in the previous year, the country’s chief sanitary doctor said on Monday.
The epidemic is increasingly “feminized,” with women accounting for more than 50 percent of all newly diagnosed HIV carriers in 13 regions, Gennady Onishchenko, head of the Federal Consumer Protection Service, said at a press conference in Moscow.
Drug use remained the main transmission route for the disease, with contaminated needles accounting for 57 percent of all infections. Russia has an estimated 5 million drug addicts, a situation blamed mostly on cheap heroin from Afghanistan.
But sexual contact, mostly heterosexual, was gaining in prominence, with almost 40 percent of the people contracting HIV in 2011 having done so through sex, a 4.5-percent increase over the past three years, Onishchenko said.
People in the age bracket from 30 to 40 years old were the main risk group, accounting for 42 percent of new infections, Onishchenko said.
Official statistics put the number of HIV-positive Russians at 637,000, but UNAIDS, a United Nations anti-HIV group, said on its website the figure could be as high as 1 million people. Onishchenko implicitly acknowledged that, saying on Monday that more people, especially gay men and drug addicts, need to be tested for HIV.
Only 97,000 Russians received state-funded antiretroviral therapy last year, the main HIV treatment, Onishchenko said. The Health and Social Development Ministry said in December the rest are at an early stage of the disease and do not need the costly therapy.
The Russian government has earmarked 19 billion rubles ($600 million) on HIV prevention and treatment in 2012-2013, according to the ministry’s website.