Rising Heroin Use in Southeast Asia Could Aggravate Region’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic, Report Says
More people in Southeast Asia are injecting heroin, which could contribute to the spread of HIV in the region, according to the International Narcotics Control Board's 2004 annual report released on Wednesday, VOA News reports. According to the report, the trend was most visible in Cambodia, China, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam (Corben, VOA News, 3/2). The report also found that injection drug use, including heroin, is on the rise in Africa, which could exacerbate the continent's HIV/AIDS pandemic, BBC News reports. In addition, the report said that heroin use remained stable or declined in most of Western Europe, but use of the drug is increasing in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union countries. The report noted that Russia has the largest heroin market in Europe, according to BBC News (BBC News , 3/2). Officials also expressed concern over the increased use of opium and heroin in Pakistan and the spread of HIV among injection drug users in the country (BBC News , 3/2). "The writing is on the wall for Pakistan: Either get a grip on injection drug use and sharing of needles or get ready to face an HIV/AIDS epidemic," Vincent McClean, a representative of the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime, said, adding, "The injecting drug use and sharing of needles is the fastest way to accelerate an HIV/AIDS epidemic." Maj. Gen. Nadeem Ahmed, head of the Anti-Narcotics Force in Pakistan's Ministry of Narcotics Control, said the country is aware of the threat and must act quickly, the Pakistan Daily Times reports (Daily Times, 3/2). "Unfortunately, the number of injecting drug users in Pakistan is on the increase," Ahmed said, adding, "We still are a low prevalence country, but there is a cause for alarm." About four million drug users -- including about 500,000 people who regularly use heroin, 12% of whom inject the drug -- live in Pakistan, according to Ahmed (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.