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AIDS situation stable, under control in Russia, health minister assures

According to the HIV/AIDS chief freelance specialist at the Ministry of Health, Alexey Mazus, over 90% of HIV-infected people know about their status

MOSCOW, November 28./TASS/. The AIDS epidemic course in Russia is stable and under control owing to the professional efforts of specialists, Russian Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko said on Monday.

According to data for 2021, over 850,000 HIV-infected people live in Russia, he added. "The highly professional work of specialists in the battle against AIDS <...> allows us to say that the epidemic process of HIV infection in our country is stably controlled. I would like to emphasize that Russia is a world leader in terms of HIV testing coverage, which was over 28% in 2021," the minister said.

"Today we have reached the pre-pandemic numbers, and we went through the pandemic with a minimal decline. Even in 2020 (the coronavirus year) the level of screening was slightly less than 25%," the minister told an all-Russia forum for specialists in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS.

According to the HIV/AIDS chief freelance specialist at the Ministry of Health, Alexey Mazus, over 90% of HIV-infected people know about their status.

"The antiretroviral therapy coverage in accordance with the state strategy for combating the spread of HIV infection in the Russian Federation for the period until 2030 exceeds the planned figure of 80%, standing at 86%," Anton Shalayev, deputy director of the department for medicines and medical products at the health ministry, told the forum.

More than 10,000 HIV-infected children are registered in Russia, and the share of teenagers is constantly growing, Yevgeny Voronin, chief freelance pediatric HIV specialist at the Ministry of Health said, sounding an alarming note.

"Children are the most vulnerable, the most difficult group among people living with HIV. Russia has always paid and continues to pay special attention to rendering help to HIV-infected children. <...> Today, more than 10,000 children diagnosed with HIV are registered in Russia and more than half of them live in the 10 most affected regions," he told the forum.

As many as 99% of HIV positive children in the Russian Federation are registered with AIDS centers, more than 98% receive antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of patients have an undetectable HIV viral load, Voronin added. "These are very good figures," he stressed.

However, according to the expert, the share of teenagers among HIV-affected children is growing. "Three or four years ago teenagers accounted for only 30%, today they make up 50% and in several years teenagers will make up over 70% of the total number of children living with HIV," he pointed out. "Meanwhile, teenagers are the most difficult group in terms of compliance to antiretroviral treatment," said the expert.

"The world is seeing a decline in AIDS mortality among all age groups, except for teenagers aged 15 to 19 with the perinatal route of infection," Voronin stressed. "Long medication history, side effects from antiretroviral drugs, [against this background] many teenagers develop rejection, therapy fatigue, neurocognitive and psychological problems. Half of adolescents have depression and increased anxiety," Voronin said, adding that teenagers with HIV should be the focus of attention in Russia.