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Poor Implementation of Laws Controlling Sale of Prescription Drugs Increasing Injection Drug Use, Spread of HIV in India, HIV/AIDS Advocates Say

December 13, 2006

Poor implementation of laws that control the sale of prescription drugs in India is increasing injection drug use and fueling the spread of HIV in the country, HIV/AIDS advocates said Monday, the AP/Yahoo! India News reports (AP/Yahoo! India News, 12/11). Indian officials estimate that about 100,000 injection drug users live in the country, but the United Nations says the number could be as high as one million. About 10% of HIV-positive people in India contracted the virus through injection drug use, according to the country's National AIDS Control Organization (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/30). IDUs, "who no longer are satisfied by snorting or inhaling illicit substances," sometimes purchase drugs from pharmacies without prescriptions, liquefy the powders and inject the drugs intravenously, Reuters reports (Reuters, 12/11). The transition from oral drug use to injection drug use is increasing rapidly, Luke Samson -- director of Sharan, an Indian nongovernmental organization -- said (AP/Yahoo! India News, 12/11). According to HIV/AIDS advocates in South Asia, the time period between inhaling and snorting illegal substances and using injection drugs typically is two to three years. "This is a window of opportunity to intervene and prevent people from crossing over," Gordon Mortimore, head of the Program Management Office of Britain's Department for International Development, said (Reuters, 12/11). "The problem is not the law but the implementation of the law. The number of drug inspectors in [India] is far less than the number of chemist shops that they have to deal with," Suresh Kumar, a psychiatrist working with HIV-positive IDUs, said (AP/Yahoo! India News, 12/11).

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