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High-risk behaviors could lead to HIV epidemic in Afghanistan
Date:8/28/2007

In a report that is among the first to describe the prevalence of HIV and Hepatitis B and C viruses in Afghanistan, a researcher from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine voiced concerns that increasing injection drug use and accompanying high-risk behavior could lead to an HIV epidemic in Afghanistan.

Our findings suggest that interventions to reduce high-risk behaviors among injection drug users are urgently needed in Afghanistan, said Catherine S. Todd, M.D., MPH, assistant professor in UCSDs Division of International Health and Cross-cultural Medicine, who is currently working in Kabul, Afghanistan. The findings are published in the September issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Although HIV prevalence is currently low among injection drug users in Kabul, Todd and colleagues with the National HIV/AIDS Control Program of the Afghan Ministry of Public Health found that risky injecting and sexual behaviors were alarmingly high. The incidence of Hepatitis C infection was also high, which could foreshadow an increase in HIV rates.

It is important to educate the public about this looming problem in Afghanistan, said Dr. Saifur Rehman, manager of the HIV/AIDS Control Program of the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, who added that one of the biggest obstacles to intervention programs is lack of funding. Afghanistan has received a $10 million grant from the HIV/AIDS programs of the World Bank for three years and has a pending proposal to the Global Fund. Programming for drug users, directed towards reducing or containing adverse health, social, and economic consequences, is a major component of these plans. The country continues to seek other support to help deal with the potential increase in HIV a problem which, Rehman says, is of unknown proportions. It is not clear how many cases we have, but there are probably many more than are reflected by available test results, he said.

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Contact: Debra Kain
ddkain@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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