WHO Warns of ‘Potential AIDS Disaster’ in Afghanistan, Works with Health Department to Devise Plan to Fight HIV
Unsafe blood transfusions and widespread injection drug use could lead to the "rapid" spread of HIV in Afghanistan, where "early interventions" are necessary to prevent an outbreak, the World Health Organization said on Sunday, Agence France-Presse reports. WHO, which is sponsoring the first survey to examine HIV/AIDS levels in the country, said that Afghanistan is particularly at risk for an HIV/AIDS epidemic because the neighboring countries of Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China have all reported HIV outbreaks among injection drug users, and because Afghanistan is one of the world's largest opium producers. Afghanistan's one million refugees are also at high risk for HIV because of a lack of education and information and an increased likelihood of sexual abuse and violence (Agence France-Presse, 6/9). Some refugees may have been infected while in neighboring countries, according to Reuters (Reuters, 6/9). In addition, approximately 50% of Afghan hospitals do not routinely test blood before transfusions, WHO spokesperson Loretta Girardet said. WHO is trying to improve the safety of Afghanistan's blood supply and is working with the Afghan health ministry to outline a strategy to slow the spread of the virus. According to Agence France-Presse, such a strategy would probably include an education component as well as stricter hospital controls (Agence France-Presse, 6/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.