WHO and the Russian Federation strengthen collaboration to address HIV drug resistance

Natalia Lebedeva

Sample preparation process for HIV testing in the laboratory of Moscow Regional Centre for prevention and control of AIDS and Infectious Diseases.

To strengthen the monitoring of HIV drug-resistant strains in the Russian Federation and improve technical cooperation at both the country and regional levels, WHO and the Russian Ministry of Health met with the technical sub-group on HIV drug resistance (DR), under the High-level Working Group (HLWG) on HIV, on 1 October 2019.

In the last few years, the Russian Federation has been increasing treatment coverage for HIV patients towards meeting the global 90-90-90 targets to end the AIDS epidemic – by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will be on treatment, and 90% of all people receiving treatment will have viral suppression. However, HIV DR has been reported and might become a major reason for treatment failure if not promptly addressed. To improve prevention and raise awareness, it is crucial to monitor resistant strains better and more systematically across the country.

Strengthen monitoring of HIV drug-resistant strains

The meeting’s participants agreed to focus national action on the following initiatives:

  • create a national system for monitoring HIV-resistant drug strains based on the Federal District AIDS Centres laboratories;
  • develop a national action plan;
  • strengthen the national HIV laboratory service by establishing a WHO HIV DR reference laboratory; and
  • include HIV DR issues in the upcoming national HIV treatment guidelines.

Improve technical cooperation

Participants also agreed to establish a working sub-group to implement priorities and further steps, identified in the meeting, through strengthened collaboration between WHO and the Russian Federation. The sub-group, composed of representatives from the Russian Ministry of Health, Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), Regional AIDS Centres and WHO experts and representatives from the Country Office, will bring key issues to the attention of the HLWG on HIV.

The meeting gathered more than 20 leading experts from the Russian Federation from different areas, including laboratories, health care provision, epidemiology, health research and HIV management. They discussed the current HIV DR situation and shared experiences about ongoing national initiatives and regional programmes. WHO participated with a joint team of representatives from the global, regional and country levels.

About the High-level Working Group on HIV

The High-level Working Group on HIV was established on 20 April 2017 to function as a dynamic mechanism and a platform for national and international experts to exchange knowledge and experiences about effective interventions to address HIV. The HLWG on HIV focuses on HIV epidemiological surveillance, testing and prevention, and treatment. Each of these areas is covered by a thematic working group that revises the existing evidence and develops recommendations to be considered for further decisions by the HLWG, Ministry of Health and WHO in their joint work.