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After years of research, top Moscow health official reveals Russia may be close to unveiling prototype 'HIV vaccine'

After years of research, top Moscow health official reveals Russia may be close to unveiling prototype 'HIV vaccine'
Russia's research into the development of a HIV vaccine appears to be bearing fruit with progress reported in relation to a number of prototypes, the head of the country's health regulator said on Tuesday.

Anna Popova, the head of the federal health agency Rospotrebnadzor, explained that several formulas were under investigation by scientists who had worked in the area for "a sufficient number of years."

"We have our own prototypes, we have our own vaccines," she said. Popova added that Novosibirsk's Vector Research Center has a prototype, and "a number of other research organizations in Russia have their own prototypes."

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She praised work that has already been done on treating people diagnosed with the virus, saying that antiretroviral therapy is accessible for everyone who needs it, and that prices were not increasing. Popova pointed out that, next year, the country has budgeted 29.4 billion rubles ($388 million) to provide the drugs to patients.

When HIV was first identified as a cause of immune system failure in 1984, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced that they would work to have a vaccine ready within two years. However, the scientific reality has proved complex, and no effective jab has so far been made widely available.

Russia faces a significant public health challenge when it comes to cases of the bloodborne infection. More than 340,000 Russians have died of AIDS, the progressive syndrome that results from HIV, with more than two-thirds of those dying within the past 10 years. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the rate of infection is growing by around 10-15 percent each year.

Today's announcement marks the second time this year that Russia has sought to position itself as a leader in the field of immunology. In August, Moscow's Gamaleya Institute made headlines when it announced that authorities had registered their Covid-19 vaccine – the world's first since the start of the pandemic. The decision, they say, was based on positive trial data published in The Lancet. The creators of the formula are now exploring deals with countries including India, China and possibly even Germany for it to be manufactured overseas to boost capacity and meet demand.

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