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International News

Quick Action Urged on Afghan Drugs to Head Off AIDS

February 6, 2007

Health authorities are warning that quick action is needed to head off an HIV/AIDS crisis linked to the growing problem of drug addiction in Afghanistan. The nation's opium output was up by 60 percent last year, and the UN says nearly 1 million Afghans - 4 percent of the population - are drug users.

Without action, "we will be facing a widespread epidemic," Afghan Red Crescent President Fatima Gailani said in a statement Thursday at the opening of new treatment center for drug users outside Kabul. The facility, Nawai Zwand ("New Beginning") is a joint venture of the Italian Red Cross and the Senlis Council, a European think-tank.

"Drug addiction is an increasingly worrying issue in Afghanistan, and we hope this new treatment center will contribute to Afghanistan dealing with this growing problem," said Senlis President Norine MacDonald, who attended the opening. "Many [returning refugees] are now injecting heroin, and this poses a major threat in terms of HIV/AIDS transmission." The new center is modeled on an Italian facility whose treatment methods include needle exchange and methadone therapy.

UNAIDS says there are just 50 known HIV infections in Afghanistan. However, most experts say the problem is likely much larger, as a quarter-century of war and unrest have prevented the gathering of much information in the country.

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This article was provided by Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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