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Press-release: UNAIDS – play against life

UNAIDS – Play Against Life

While the Executive Director of UNIADS [1] Michel Sidibé is playing football with Russian officials, his colleagues in the Russian office leave no chances to survive for Russian prisoners with HIV/TB co-infection

Moscow, October 6, 2011. The Country Coordinating Mechanism of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Russia [2] will soon finish the voting on the project aiming at providing life-saving treatment to 18,000 people with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and extremely drug-resistant TB, as well 1 700 patients with HIV/TB co-infection, 60% of whom are prisoners – a group considered to be the most vulnerable population.

Playing along with the Russian officials who say the realization of this project in Russia is unreasonable, the representative of UNAIDS in CCM abstained during voting, demonstrating their negligence towards the fate of 20 thousands Russian patients with TB, who, judging by the action of the representative, do not need their lives to be saved and may be deprived of the right to medical aid.

The decision to approve the grant for this project, which, according to NGOs, would complement the government’s efforts in the field of TB treatment, has already been taken by the Global Fund [3]; however, due to the position of the RF Government, the Global Fund temporarily froze the grant.

Notably, October 10-12 Moscow will host MDG-6 International Forum [4] devoted to combating HIV, Malaria and other diseases. October 9, there will be a charity football game entitled “Play for Life” [5], Michel Sidibé (executive director of UNAIDS) being a team captain of one of the teams. The collected funds will be transferred to UNAIDS for realizing a project aimed at helping women and children affected by the epidemic of HIV in Russia.

“Over the recent years of their work, UNAIDS have not done anything of significance to prevent HIV epidemic in Russia. In our opinion, there is no reason in having a UNAIDS office with paid staff in the centre of Moscow, because the resources that are spent for office support do not provide added value. Instead of committing themselves to real work, they play football. UNAIDS officials should immediately provide reasonable explanations for their voting, although it is doubtful the explanations will be convincing“, says Andrey Zlobin, Board Chairman, “Community of PLHIV” Interregional Non-Governmental Organization.

While speaking about support for activities contributing to a more effective response to epidemics, including development of cooperation and partnership with the organizations of the civil society and initiatives of people living with HIV, UNAIDS, according to the opinion of many non-for-profit organizations working in the field of prevention of socially significant diseases, hinders the realization of life-saving programmes. The last case with the voting in CCM is yet another proof of this double-standard policy and incompliance with the mission of UNAIDS.

Grigory Vergus, representative of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, stated that “UNAIDS and WHO [6], despite their declared leading role in the field of combating the epidemic and defending the rights of people living with HIV, are yet again trying to find a compromise. They are again trying to find a black cat in a dark room, knowing that it is not there. However, the cost of these games is the lives of people who cannot defend themselves being in prison”.

This situation led to several Russian NGOs accusing UNAIDS of irresponsibleness and betrayal of people living with HIV in favour of vague political benefits. They also demanded that UNAIDS give explanations regarding their position on the application for Round 10 of GF.

We are shocked by the position of UNAIDS. While stating that they support the activities contributing to a more effective response to HIV/AIDS epidemic, they hinder the realization of life-saving programmes in Russia, instead supporting only discordance between their statements and real actions, says Anya Sarang, representative of Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice.

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Background Information:

In 2010, the number of newly diagnosed patients with TB was 91,687 people; 161,576 cases of TB treatment were registered (133,793 in the public healthcare sector and 27,783 in Russian penal institutions). (According to the data of National Research Institute for the Organization and Informatization of Healthcare [7]).

According to the data of G. Onischenko, head of Rospotrebnadzor, TB remains the death cause in patients with HIV in more than 50% of cases.

As of January 1, 2011, the overall number of people in penal institution of Russia was 819,2 thousand people. 4,7% have TB, and 6,7% are HIV-positive. (Speech of Director of Federal Penitentiary Service, general-colonel A. Reymer at a panel meeting, February 25, 2011).

According to the data of  WHO, in 2009, Russia ranked 11 among the 22 countries with the highest TB prevalence rates, whereas in Europe the Russian “contribution” to the total number of newly diagnosed patients with TB was 36%. Over the last years, Russia has become one of the three world leaders in terms of incidence of MDR TB. The mortality rates among patients with MDR TB is continuing to rise, reaching the level of 3.2 per 100 000 in 2009.

In 2011, several criminal cases were initiated against the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia due to the death of prisoners caused by non-provision of treatment for HIV and TB. [8]

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[1]UNAIDS – Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

[2]www.hivrussia.org/skm/index.shtml

[3]www.theglobalfund.org

[4]http://mdg6forum.org/

[5]www.asks.ru/blogs/051011/1288/

[6] WHO is another UN organization represented in CCM which has not taken part in the voting on Round 10 for unknown reasons.

[7] www.mednet.ru/images/stories/files/CMT/Otraslevye_pokazateli_protivotuberkuleznoi_raboty_2009_2010.pdf

[8] www.mk.ru/politics/russia/article/2011/10/03/629091-prigovoren-k-smerti-ot-spida.html




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