Afghanistan Taking First Steps in Efforts To Combat HIV/AIDS
Afghanistan is currently "witnessing one of the largest influxes of people in its history, and among all the new arrivals is a foreign disease that even rich countries have trouble controlling" -- HIV/AIDS, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Although the HIV incidence in the country is low, with only eight reported cases in 2002 and 15 cases in 2003, the arrival of the HIV/AIDS in the country has "deep social, moral and political reverberations," according to the Monitor. United Nations and Afghan officials have said that sex education is necessary to prevent HIV spread in the country, but the fact that sex is "rarely" discussed in traditional Afghan culture could inhibit implementation of such educational programs, according to the Monitor. Gul Agha, a senior judge and Islamic scholar from the conservative southern province of Nangrahar, said, "Islam does not allow you to sleep illegally with another woman, so how can you encourage a man to use a condom?," adding, "The best way is to tell people that prostitution is not allowed and to stay away from it." In addition, although officials with the country's Ministry of Public Health have allocated part of its $170 million budget this year to establish an HIV/AIDS department and to institute more stringent screening of the Central Blood Bank, the country is already battling other serious health problems. Dr. Hedayatullah Stanekzai, senior planning official at the Ministry of Public Health, said, "AIDS is just in the early stages, and we are doing what we can. But we have to focus on our bigger priorities." Afghanistan has one of the world's highest maternal mortality rates -- 106 women die per every 100,000 live births -- and one of the highest infant mortality rates (Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, 10/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.