Asian Governments Focus ‘Too Little’ on HIV Prevention Among IV Drug Users, Study Says
Governments in Asia, where increased intravenous drug use has "accelerat[ed]" the spread of HIV along drug trafficking routes, are doing "too little" to combat the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users, according to a report by an Australian health and medical research organization, Reuters reports. The Centre for Harm Reduction report, which examined 22 Asian countries as well as Hong Kong and Macau, said that while Asian governments had done work to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, Asia will continue to experience one of "the worst regional AIDS epidemics on Earth" if government officials do not take "action" to prevent its spread among IV drug users. According to the report -- which is titled "Revisiting the Hidden Epidemic" and is a follow-up to a similar 1997 report by the group -- few HIV prevention programs aimed at IV drug users, such as needle-exchange programs, are operating in the region. Drug trafficking routes among the heroin-producing countries of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand may be spreading HIV into previously HIV-free regions of China. Along these trafficking routes, drug-using populations "develop rapidly" in the host countries and create an "HIV threat," the report said. The report noted that Indonesia is one of the countries "most at risk" for an epidemic, as IV drug users made up 19% of its HIV-positive population in 2001 compared with less than 1% in 2000. In addition to existing epidemics in drug users in Iran, Vietnam and Thailand, the report noted that the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Macau, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are at risk for HIV epidemics among IV drug-using populations (Perry, Reuters, 2/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.