Reuters, May 27, 2008


HIV risk in war-torn Afghanistan high

Afghanistan is a deeply Islamic country and many of those affected with HIV do not want to speak about it and some are not aware they have it.

Sayed Salahuddin

The prevalence of HIV is low in Afghanistan, but the potential risk factors for the spread of the disease remain high, the Public Health Ministry said on Monday.

So far 435 HIV positive cases have been reported in Afghanistan, the ministry said in a statement, but it is estimated there are 2,000-2,500 cases in a population of some 26 million, still a relatively low infection rate.

"But ... war, poverty, illiteracy, massive international and external displacement, the high level of poppy cultivation, drug trafficking and usage, the existence of commercial and unsafe sex, unsafe injection practices and blood transfusion are potential risk factors for its spread," the ministry said.

Afghanistan is a deeply Islamic country and many of those affected with HIV do not want to speak about it and some are not aware they have it.

The World Bank has granted $10 million (5 million pounds) to the ministry for identifying and creating public awareness among those groups most at risk of HIV and AIDS, the government said.

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