Some 150,000 people have died of AIDS in Russia in 28 years, which have passed since the first HIV positive test in the former Soviet Union, chief HIV diagnostic and treatment specialist of the Russian Health Ministry Alexei Mazus told Interfax.
"Some 150,000 people. Sad statistics. HIV-positive people die for various reasons. Some have died of hepatic cirrhosis and hepatitis caused by infections transmitted similarly with HIV and by consumption of toxic psychoactive substances - drugs and alcohol," the expert said.
Mazus said Russia started monitoring lethal HIV/AIDS cases in 1986.
As of the first quarter of 2014, Russia had over 642,000 HIV-positive residents or 0.4% of the entire population.
According to Mazus, the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being (Rospotrebnadzor) says the number is bigger, almost 800,000. "This is the overall number of HIV-infected persons, including foreigners and labor migrants temporary staying in the country and the aforementioned deaths," he said.
"HIV incidence is the highest in the Siberian, Volga and Urals Federal Districts. The situation is miscellaneous. The worst-stricken regions of the country are Kemerovo, Yekaterinburg, Tyumen, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Samara and Irkutsk regions. The main cause of HIV incidence on those territories is drug abuse," Mazus said.
"Incidence is steady and similar with the statistic data of Western Europe in regions which crack down on drugs. For instance, the epidemic is controllable in Moscow; HIV incidence is growing insignificantly and the HIV-positive population stands at about 47,000. This is the result of the strategy of HIV prevention and the crackdown on drugs and drug abuse tolerance in the capital city," he said.
"HIV incidence in Moscow is smaller than it is in New York, Washington, London and many other megalopolises of the world," Mazus said.
The creation of HIV prevention and treatment vaccines is active in Moscow, Novosibirsk and St. Petersburg, he noted.
"Three vaccines have been presented to specialists, and two of them have been permitted to proceed to the second phase of clinical tests. The vaccine developed in St. Petersburg may become therapeutic. It is based on the available anti-retroviral drugs. Presumably, the comprehensive therapy combing the new DNA vaccine and anti-retroviral preparations may fully deactivate HIV in a human organism, because the vaccine can extract the virus from a depot which contemporary anti-retroviral drugs cannot do on their own," he said.
It will take at least four or five years to complete the testing cycle, Mazus said.
"Our U.S. colleagues, worthy rivals in the vaccine development, are working at the same pace. There are active works in Germany, as well. Unfortunately, neither us nor the Americans nor the Europeans have produced the vaccine as of yet. The question who will be the first to make it is not essential in the context of helping our patients; besides, money is not the key to everything, the main elements of success are scientific idea and luck. Hopefully, our scientists will be lucky," the leading expert said.
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