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Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania Must Address Rising Number of Injection Drug Users, Sex Workers to Prevent HIV Epidemic

July 14, 2003

Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania must address the rising number of injection drug users and sex workers in order to keep HIV prevalence from reaching levels found in other parts of Central and Eastern Europe, according to a World Bank report released on Thursday, U.N. Wire reports. The report, titled "HIV/AIDS in Southeastern Europe," found that despite the low number of HIV cases in the region -- Bulgaria has recorded 366 total cases, Croatia 341 and Romania 12,500 -- the presence of injection drugs, prostitution and highly mobile groups make the countries vulnerable to the spread of HIV, according to the report. Researchers believe that Romania has at least 10,000 injection drug users, Croatia has between 10,000 and 20,000 and Bulgaria has as many as 46,000. In addition, rising syphilis rates indicate that there has been an increase in unprotected sexual activity. In addition, about 80% of Romania's HIV-positive residents were infected as children through blood transfusions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and as they approach adolescence, they could become sexually active, which Tom Novotny, the study's lead author, said "is cause for concern" (Hukill, U.N. Wire, 7/10). The report calls for widespread education programs, improved disease tracking, increased training among medical personnel and better public health infrastructures (Zwillich, Reuters Health, 7/10). The World Bank in September plans to release the results of an HIV/AIDS study of all of Central and Eastern Europe (U.N. Wire, 7/10).

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