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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

AIDS Follows Afghanistan's 'Miniglobalization'


Christian Science Monitor (10.17.03) - Tuesday, October 21,

During its 23-year civil war, HIV/AIDS largely passed over Afghanistan. Now that the country is experiencing one of the largest influxes of people in its history, the disease is making inroads through prostitution and illicit drug use. Eight people tested positive for HIV last year; this year 15 have been diagnosed.

Dr. Hedayatullah Stanekzai, a senior planning official at the Ministry of Public Health, regards AIDS in Afghanistan as a serious problem. But with one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world, unsafe drinking water, poor hygiene and chronic malnutrition among 60 percent of the population, health officials have other pressing priorities to address.

Health officials did, however, devote a portion of their $170 million 2003 budget to setting up an HIV/AIDS department and to placing stricter screening controls on the Central Blood Bank, where all 15 of the current cases were discovered.

Some UN and Afghan officials believe the best way to stem the further spread of HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan is through education. A recent Health Ministry survey found that 84 percent of Afghans had never heard of HIV/AIDS. But education about an STD can be difficult in a country where sex itself is rarely discussed.

"Islam does not allow you to sleep illegally with another woman, so how can you encourage a man to use a condom?" asked Gul Agha, a senior judge and Islamic scholar. "The best way is to tell people that prostitution is not allowed and to stay away from it." "We are going through a miniglobalization here in Afghanistan, after years of isolation," said Omar Samad, spokesperson for the Afghan Foreign Ministry. "It is very difficult to control some of these forces.... What we need is to preach morality, and to uphold the rule of law."


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Information in this article was accurate in October 21, 2003. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.