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Russian NGOs Fear Fate of HIV Harm-Reduction Programs as Planned Exit of Global Fund Occurs

February 16, 2012

The Moscow Times examines a potential shift in Russia's public health priorities as programs funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria begin to phase out. "While the Global Fund's eight-year presence in Russia was long expected to end, officials with regional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) largely dependent on the group's financing say the country is now turning its back on widely accepted harm-reduction strategies and will let independent HIV-prevention groups wither and die," the newspaper writes.

"In the wake of the Global Fund's exit, the Russian government assumed full responsibility for funding the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and has pledged more money than ever accordingly," but "[p]rograms such as handing out condoms to sex workers, needle exchanges and methadone treatments that are internationally seen as successful methods to prevent the spread of HIV have been frowned upon or outright banned in Russia, where health officials argue they fuel drug-taking and other risky behavior that breeds higher infection rates," according to the newspaper. "Health experts and NGOs agree that a change in strategy is needed if Russia is to come up with an effective response to its HIV epidemic," the newspaper writes (Winning, 2/15).

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