Number of HIV/AIDS Cases in Kazakhstan Increasing; Lack of Awareness Hindering Efforts To Fight Disease
Kazakhstan is part of a "new frontier" in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the World Bank estimates that the number of recorded HIV/AIDS cases in the country has doubled each year since 2000, Reuters Health reports. According to estimates from UNICEF, which has worked in Kazakhstan since 1995, the number of people living with HIV could be three times more than the official total of about 7,000. In addition, "[d]iscrimination and abuse are rife" in Kazakhstan, and HIV/AIDS advocates say officials have made little effort to educate people about the disease, Reuters Health reports. Although HIV in Kazakhstan is most commonly transmitted through injection drug use, the country's HIV/AIDS problem "sprang to the top of national agenda" after more than 80 children contracted the virus through contaminated blood transfusions in hospitals in the country's Shymkent region, Reuters Health reports. Eight infants have died as a result of the incident, and the number of HIV-positive children is increasing. "These problems are not just here in Shymkent," Alena Sialchonak, a UNICEF program officer, said, adding, "It affects the whole of Kazakhstan. The problem was created by adults. But it's the children who are paying the price." Some doctors in Kazakhstan have said that women and children often do not have access to adequate treatment education, and sex education is virtually nonexistent in the country, Reuters Health reports. Local governments in many regions of Kazakhstan have said they are attempting to provide care and treatment to people living with HIV. According to UNAIDS, there are indications that HIV/AIDS prevalence in Central Europe and South Asia has increased by more than 50% since 2004 (Golovinina, Reuters Health, 1/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.