As the St. Petersburg Times reports from the AP wire, Vladimir Vladimirovich has been forced to discuss Russia’s burgeoning AIDS disaster, but the trained KGB liar still won’t face the music:
President Vladimir Putin called on the government and society on Friday to work harder to fight the spread of HIV, saying that AIDS was affecting young Russians at a pace that threatened the nation’s well-being.
Putin told federal and regional officials that experts believed the true number of people with HIV might be significantly higher than the official figure of more than 342,000, and that most of those with the virus were under 30.
“This already could have a negative influence on the demographic situation, and that is particularly worrisome,” Putin said. “The situation is alarming and demands not a contemplative but an active attitude from society.”
Check out this whopper:
Putin said a five-year anti-HIV/AIDS program that ends this year had cut the number of new HIV cases from 88,000 in 2001 to 33,000 last year. He said the government planned to spend 3.1 billion rubles ($113 million) on fighting AIDS under the aegis of the health care national project, but the time period for the outlays was unclear.
The facts belie Putin’s claim of genuine interest in solving the problem:
Putin spoke a day after the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, criticized Western-funded programs aimed at combating HIV and AIDS in a letter to the president, calling them immoral and inconsistent with Russian culture and saying they promote Western pharmaceutical companies’ contraceptives.
Also last week, the Moscow City Duma urged Putin to restrict the activity of foreign NGOs involved in anti-AIDS programs, accusing them of fueling rather than helping to stem the epidemic.
Putin’s figure for Russians registered as HIV-positive was slightly lower than the statistic of 355,000 given a day earlier by the head of the Federal AIDS Center, Vadim Pokrovsky. Experts believe the true number is more than 1 million.
So Russia is understating its AIDS infection rate by a factor of three, making it rather hard to believe Putin’s claims about success in the reduction of new cases, especially when he’s in the middle of an Orthodox-led pogrom against NGOs who are trying to deal with the problem.