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19 Nov, 2020 17:34

HIV patients in parts of Russia can't get blood analyzed as laboratories focus on processing Covid-19 tests, advocacy group claims

HIV patients in parts of Russia can't get blood analyzed as laboratories focus on processing Covid-19 tests, advocacy group claims

HIV patients from several Russian regions are complaining about the inability to get tested, as the nation’s labs are overwhelmed by Covid-19 and other infections are sometimes left behind, whistleblowers claim.

‘Patient Control’, a movement dedicated to collecting information about the treatment of diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis in Russia, has found that people in multiple regions are unable to get a test slot, with many patients going a long time without a check-up. Regular blood analysis is essential for discovering the effectiveness of medication, and is used to determine how to manage treatment going forward.

Speaking to Moscow daily Kommersant, the movement’s spokeswoman, Yulia Vereshchagina, explained that sufferers in certain regions haven’t been tested for several months. The Federal Ministry of Health recommendations say that new patients should have their blood checked once a month, then once every three months, and later on, once every six months.

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However, despite Patient Control’s collected data, the claim that HIV patients cannot access blood tests has been denied by every single regional AIDS center questioned by Kommersant. The daily newspaper spoke to the local ministries of health in the regions of Orenburg, Omsk, Dagestan, and Bashkortostan, amongst others, and received rebuttals from each one.

As well as lack of testing, those who are HIV-positive are also seeing a shortage of expensive medication, Patient Control reports. In particular, sufferers from certain parts of the country, including Moscow, have complained that they have not received vital drugs. According to Russian law, medication for the treatment of HIV is provided free of charge to those in need.

Issues surrounding HIV are not new for Russia, which has a relatively high number of HIV-positive citizens. According to official government data, the number of people living with the disease in 2019 was greater than one million. In February 2020, Russian blogger Yuri Dud brought the country’s attention to the epidemic, releasing a documentary that has since gained over 19 million views. According to the video, 37,000 people died of AIDS last year alone, an average of 100 people a day.

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