HIV/AIDS Awareness Among Youth in Tajikistan Low, Surveys Find
Awareness about HIV/AIDS and knowledge of prevention methods among youth in Tajikistan are low, according to two surveys released this week, IRIN News reports. One survey, conducted between November 2006 and January 2007 with support from UNAIDS, found that 77% of respondents between ages 15 and 24 had heard of HIV but only about 50% knew how to protect themselves from the virus. According to IRIN News, the majority of HIV-positive people in the country are between ages 24 and 39. The other survey, funded by the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and conducted during the same time period, found that about 76% of homeless children had no knowledge of HIV prevention and treatment programs. The survey also found that about 95% of sexually active homeless children, who are primarily in their late teens, engaged in casual sex. More than 52% of the country's population is under age 19, and the number of homeless children is estimated to be between 8,500 and 9,600, according to IRIN News. There were 317 registered cases of HIV in the country in 2004, but recent UNAIDS estimates put the number at about 4,900. Injection drug use is the main mode of HIV transmission in Tajikistan, accounting for 70% of all HIV/AIDS cases, IRIN News reports. According to UNAIDS country officer Maria Boltaeva, 55 people have died of AIDS-related illnesses since registration of HIV cases began in 1991. "Although rapidly increasing HIV infection is already a serious concern, the low level of HIV awareness among young people is making it even more alarming," Boltaeva said. Amonullo Gaibov -- secretary of the country's National Consultation Commission on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- said, "The reality of well-known risk factors and current (poor) medical and social conditions in Tajikistan are causing real concern. If not addressed, it could lead to a rapid spread of infection." He added, "The results of the surveys show that those measures implemented to prevent HIV infection in the country are not very focused, and there is a need to change our approach and adjust existing projects and programs" (IRIN News, 4/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.