Afghanistan’s Opium Trade Undermines Pakistan’s Efforts To Control Domestic Spread of HIV, Health Minister Says
Afghanistan's opium trade is undermining Pakistan's efforts to control the spread of HIV in the country, particularly among injection drug users, Pakistan's Health Minister Mohammad Naseer Khan said Wednesday, Reuters reports. Pakistan has confirmed 3,556 HIV cases in the country -- more than 300 of whom have developed AIDS -- but officials say the numbers likely are higher. According to Khan, Pakistan has been committed to fighting the spread of the virus, but the country must increase efforts to tackle Afghanistan's opium production, the raw material for heroin, to successfully reduce the virus' spread. "We are committed for a strong program to combat HIV/AIDS, especially the [injection drug] users," Khan said. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes said recently that Afghanistan's opium harvest reached a record high this year, and production is 50% higher than in 2005. "Today, in Afghanistan you have the highest production of opium to date. Ten years ago it nearly reached zero," Khan, who attended a U.N. meeting on injection drug use and HIV/AIDS on Wednesday, said, adding, "So that's a huge concern for Pakistan. More has to be done by the government of Afghanistan and also all the donor agencies and coalition forces to stop that production." Khan also said that increasing HIV/AIDS awareness among people living in Pakistan is essential to fighting the spread of the virus. "We don't have to be pornographic about HIV/AIDS, but we must tell our children what it is and how to stay away from it," he said (Reuters, 12/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.