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Praised Russian Prevention Program Faces Loss of Funds

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Science  09 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5988, pp. 168
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5988.168

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Summary

On 21 April 2006, Vladimir Putin, then president of the Russian Federation, unexpectedly called for increased spending and urgent new measures to combat HIV/AIDS. Putin's critics long had accused him of turning a blind eye to the country's epidemic. In particular, Putin and his underlings did not support harm-reduction efforts that aimed to slow the spread of HIV among injecting drug users, who account for most infections in the country. Nor did the government target prevention efforts to other vulnerable groups like sex workers and men who have sex with men. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) picked up the slack and launched their own projects, receiving substantial financing from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Skeptics linked Putin's sudden concern for HIV/AIDS to Russia's first hosting of the annual Group of Eight summit, which would take place in St. Petersburg in July 2006. Russian NGOs working on HIV/AIDS organized themselves into a consortium, Global Efforts Against HIV/AIDS in Russia. Yet in July 2009, the government announced that it would not bankroll the consortium after all. Several other NGOs had to lay off employees or close up shop.