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Experts Warn Increasing IDUs in Eastern, Southern Africa Could Threaten HIV/AIDS Fight

May 25, 2010

An increase in the number of injection drug users (IDUs) in eastern and southern Africa stands to harm efforts to control the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region, warned experts gathered at the World Forum Against Drug conference in Sweden on Monday, Agence France-Presse reports.

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"I think one of our largest concerns in Kenya is the large number of people who are addicted to heroin, and many of them are actually injecting themselves," Jennifer Kimani of Kenya's National Campaign Against Drug Abuse said during the conference. "Among the injecting drug users, 68 to 88 percent are HIV positive," she added.

Olawale Maiyegun, the head of the African Union's Social Affairs Department, reiterated the concern expressed by Kimani. "It is feared that the next round of an HIV/AIDS epidemic might be (prompted) by drug injection," Maiyegun said, appealing for increased efforts to understand the scope drug use in the region.

A 2008 report from the U.N.'s Narcotics Control Board indicated that "East Africa has become 'the major conduit for smuggling heroin from southwest Asia into Africa (and on to) Europe and North America," AFP writes. "The abuse of heroin has become a matter of concern in some east and southern African countries," the report added (5/24).

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