Author: Ceyhun NACAFOV Baku
The participants in the fourth conference on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in Moscow discussed a regional strategy in the fight against AIDS. Representatives of 44 countries, including Azerbaijan, spoke about the most topical problems in tackling the AIDS epidemic in the region. Some quite intriguing statements were made during the conference. We asked the head of the Federal Scientific-Methodological Centre for the Prevention of and Fight against AIDS of the FBIS [Federal Budget Institution of Science] of the CSRI [Central Scientific Research Institute] of Epidemiology of Rospotrebnadzor [Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection], Academician of the RAMS, Dr of Medicine, Professor Vadim Pokrovskiy, to bring some clarity to the experts' optimistic forecasts.
- Gennadiy Onishchenko, the Russian prime minister's aide, has said that Russian scientists will complete preparations of a vaccine against HIV/AIDS by the end of this year. In other words, with the aid of vaccination it will be possible to stop the spread of AIDS, as happened with smallpox in the 1970s…
- Anti-HIV vaccine is currently at the level of pre-clinical trials. The first stage of preparing the vaccine will be completed by the end of this year. Quite a few years will pass before this medication will start to be applied universally. Greater sensitivity trials will be required and further vaccine tests usually take up to 10 years. Checks will continue even after the medication is brought into broad usage. It sometimes happens that a vaccine is ineffective.
- There was particular reference at the conference to the need to step up HIV prevention among migrants in Russia and other countries. One of the ways in which HIV has penetrated Azerbaijan is migration: through people who have worked in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Does Russia have an HIV prevention programme among migrant workers?
- Yes, there is a need. Russia occupies second place in the world in the need for migrant workers. Migrants are arriving in Moscow who have become infected here and, on the other hand, infected migrants are coming in and here we get other people being infected. There was a time when responsibility for fighting the HIV epidemic among the country's migrants was shifted from one to the other. The countries from which the migrants were coming said that Russia should deal with this because that was where everyone was heading. Russia proposed dealing with the HIV problem in the countries supplying the migrants, because migrants already infected in their own country were from time to time arriving in Russia. In any case, coordinated work was needed, both in Russia and in the countries they were arriving from. In Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities there are places where migrants are concentrated: airports, railway stations, various departments, and so on. Consultations must be held there on prevention of HIV, ways of its transmission, and so on. No such work is being carried out at present.
I have been dealing with this problem for many years. I believe that work on HIV prevention among migrants should be financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, but to achieve this three or four countries need to set up a committee and submit the appropriate request to the Global Fund. The Global Fund can handle the financing, whereas our task is to set up a team which will deal with HIV prevention among migrants. Unfortunately, in conditions of globalization an epidemic can spread quickly and I am afraid that we might lose time when it comes to working with migrants. In Russia there are cities, such as Vologda, from where many people go to Moscow to find work. We must work with domestic migrants, too. To do so we must use the state's perception and pool our efforts. There are several committees for the fight against HIV/AIDS within the framework of the CIS. I have attended a number of sessions. So far the work of these committees has not been effective. What is needed here is preliminary work and an exchange of information and these committees must have their own budget.
- What do you think about the express test for HIV based on human saliva? Up to now tests have been carried out on blood, which is perfectly understandable, but more and more countries are starting to use a simple saliva test. Although the WHO has not yet made up its mind about the HIV saliva test…
- We don't completely trust these tests, either. A saliva test is very convenient and it can be applied in field conditions and on patrols, for example, when mobile teams are conducting checks among drug dealers or people involved in the sex trade, or simply when someone comes to an out-patients clinic for a few minutes, and so on. This is more convenient than taking blood for analysis. But a saliva test is unacceptable as a method of determining a final diagnosis. The full effectiveness of this method is still to be proved.
- International organizations such as UNAIDS have called for death from AIDS to be completely eradicated by 2015…
- This is an objective we must strive towards. But even with modern methods of treating HIV, i.e. anti-retroviral therapy, there are still fatality cases. At the moment we do not understand why a person who has a high number of cells protecting his organism suddenly develops opportunistic infections (diseases that emerge with a decrease in immunity - author's note). We as yet have no guarantee against such cases.
- What about another ambitious target - to defeat the AIDS epidemic in the world completely by 2030?
- It should be pointed out that HIV is no longer a mortal danger to mankind. Although the turning point - the Stalingrad Battle, so to speak - against HIV has not happened, the epidemic has encountered powerful resistance. There has been definite success in the fight against AIDS. The target to conquer HIV by 2030 is attainable and we must aim towards that.
IDEA at the UN
The public association IDEA (International Dialogue for Environmental Action) has been accredited to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and has been awarded the status of observer at this organization. The aims of UNEP, which was set up according to a UN General Assembly Resolution in 1972, are the protection of nature and the environment and coordinating measures in this direction. UNEP, whose six large regional offices operate in different countries, is a co-founder of the Global Environment Fund and International Environment Day is marked every year worldwide under its patronage.
The status of observer in this organization provides IDEA with the right to participate in UNEP's annual regional conferences, as well as in full plenary sessions of the committee during sessions and conferences at ministerial level, to send written reports in the form of a document to governments through the UNEP secretariat, to make verbal approaches to UNEP during debates, and other rights.
The public association IDEA started work on 12 July 2011 on the initiative of Leyla Aliyeva, vice-president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The main tasks of the organization are informing the public about questions of the environment and activities in this sphere, working with young people, education in the sphere of environmental problems and seeking correct solutions to these problems. IDEA is UNEP's main partner in the fulfilment of ecological projects in Azerbaijan.