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UZBEKISTAN: HIV/AIDS cases on the rise

Authorities in Uzbekistan have registered a total of 779 HIV-positive people, more than three quarters of whom are men, showing a sharp rise in numbers over the last two years, a UN official told IRIN on Tuesday from the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

"HIV/AIDS is increasing sharply," said Aziz Khudoberdiev, a programme officer at the United Nations AIDS programme in Uzbekistan. "It has risen sharply in the last two years, spreading fast by sharing of syringes by drug users."

According to official statistics, the first HIV case was registered in 1987. By the end of 1998, the total number of registered HIV cases reached 51, including 27 foreigners. In 1999 the figure jumped to 76, and to 230 in the year 2000.

Khudoberdiev said 779 cases had been officially registered by the end of December 2001, but the true incidence of HIV could be 10 times higher.

Sultanov Mirzakhid, national project officer for the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention in Uzbekistan, said Tashkent that most of the HIV infections were caused by drug users sharing needles.

He said based on information he had, 63 percent of HIV incidence was caused by intravenous drug use, 8.3 percent by heterosexual activity, and just 1.6 percent by homosexual activity. "For about 27.1 percent of the spread of HIV, there is no information," he added.

Health ministry figures show an estimated 24,000 registered drug users in the country and aid workers say 40 to 60 percent of them were at risk, because many reuse syringes without caring about the consequences.

Uzbekistan's health ministry and the United Nations are working together on devising a national HIV/AIDS-prevention strategy. "The strategic process is under way," Mirzakhid said.

According to UN officials, the Strategic Programme of National Response to HIV/AIDS, based on the results of an analysis of the current situation will be finalised in September 2002.

Khudoberdiev said the programme would, among other things, focus on an information campaign to raise public awareness, particularly among drug users and commercial sex workers.

Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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