Commercial Sex Work, Lack of Knowledge About STIs Contributing to Spread of HIV in Afghanistan
As high food prices, drought, unemployment and a lack of socioeconomic opportunities lead some women and young girls in northern Afghanistan to enter commercial sex work, health specialists say they are concerned that limited knowledge about sexually transmitted infections and preventive measures are affecting the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country, IRIN/PlusNews reports.
According to Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health, there have been at least 436 cases of HIV/AIDS recorded in the country over the past five years. Although Afghanistan launched its National HIV/AIDS Control Programme in 2003, health specialists warn that sex workers, injection drug users, truck drivers and other vulnerable groups have little knowledge of STIs and prevention methods.
Saif-ur-Rehman, director of the national HIV control program, said sex workers know little about STIs and HIV/AIDS. "We will launch a project to boost awareness and introduce preventive measures among sex workers hopefully in September," Rehman said, adding that no-cost condoms will be distributed under the project. "It's a very sensitive project, and we will try to avoid misconceptions that it supports or encourages prostitution in Afghanistan," Rehman said (IRIN/PlusNews, 7/16).