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Commentary & Opinion
HIV/AIDS Epidemics Cannot Continue to Go Unchecked in Predominately Muslim Countries, Opinion Piece Says

July 13, 2005

Even though it is "clear" that HIV/AIDS is "spreading quickly" in predominately Muslim countries, "few countries have mounted comprehensive infection-surveillance programs, much less taken the appropriate steps to help prevent or treat the disease," Laura Kelley and Nicholas Eberstadt write in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece. While Iran and Bangladesh have achieved "limited success" in fighting HIV/AIDS, little or no prevalence data is available in many Muslim countries and others only recently have admitted "small but persistent" epidemics after years of blaming foreign workers and visitors for spreading the virus, Kelley, author of a 2002 National Intelligence Council study on emerging HIV/AIDS epidemics, and Eberstadt, an American Enterprise Institute scholar, say. A lack of HIV prevention programs -- combined with the "ludicrous tendency" of many Islamic nations to insist that their residents do not engage in premarital sex, adultery, commercial sex work, homosexuality or injection drug use -- "is allowing HIV to spread from high-risk to lower-risk groups," according to the authors. "Absence of information has too long been interpreted as absence of infection," the authors write, adding, "Unchecked, HIV and AIDS will continue to spread through Islamic countries -- destroying families and deepening poverty until it has rent the very fabric of these vulnerable societies" (Kelley/Eberstadt, Los Angeles Times, 7/12).

"The World" -- a production of BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston -- on Monday discussed a report, titled "Behind the Veil of a Public Health Crisis: HIV/AIDS in the Muslim World," released last month by the Seattle-based National Bureau of Asian Research. The segment includes comments from Eberstadt and Kelley, who co-wrote the report (Lawrence, "The World," PRI, 7/11). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.

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