Shots In the Arm Spread HIV in Afghanistan
In 2005 the UN warned of the risk of AIDS to Afghanistan.
There is great concern over the virus being spread by growing numbers of drug users injecting and sharing needles.
At the time there were no reliable figures on the incidence of AIDS in that country. The figures available at the time suggested the problem was not great.
The only definite figures available on HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan would suggest that there is not too much to worry about. There are just 35 HIV-positive cases identified by Kabul's blood bank.
More definite figures are now available. Abdul Sami Wahib, the director for the AIDS program in the Afghan Ministry of Health, says the research shows that over 3% of drug-addicts who use injections are infected, and that if nothing happens to prevent drug addiction in the country within the next four years as many as 4% of the population will be infected by HIV/AIDS.
The authority in the Ministry of Health said that currently more than 250 cases have been registered. But this number counts only the victims in the major cities; there's no accurate information available about how many others are affected by AIDS elsewhere.
Faizullah Kakar, Afghanistan's Deputy Minister of Public Health, has said in interviews that the numbers of HIV-infected persons is higher than the numbers given. Kakar says that seven people have currently been reported as having died from AIDS.
The World Bank has approved $89.6 million to help improve the Afghan public health system, and Afghan authorities say there have been many international promises of assistance. Free checkups have been offered, and six centers for advising were opened in order to prevent further infections. The authorities says in addition to these efforts a guide about how to avoid HIV will be taught in the schools.
According to Gulalai Safi, a member of the Health Commission in parliament, while millions of dollars have been spent through the Global Fund, IRC, Action AID and several other humanitarian organizations, there's no sign of improvement in preventing HIV in the country. She added that the struggle by the Afghanistan government and the international community have been far below expectations.
There were constant complaints in centers for HIV treatment about the lack of medicine for patients. Most of the patients were left without medications because they are unable to buy the drugs by themselves. The World Health Organization has promised to donate drugs for Afghan treatment centers to promote the patients' resistance against HIV disease.
This year Afghanistan saw HIV/AIDS cases increase threefold from last year. HIV/AIDS registration began after September 11. Concerns about increasing HIV/AIDS rates among Afghans has become a serious public issue. Currently, many clergymen try to warn people of its dangers in speeches at mosques, explaining that AIDS comes from illegal sexual intercourse, but they have yet to realize there are more ways of transferring the virus.
That education is still wanting. In recent years little has been done by the Ministry of Health or other organizations to increase the awareness that AIDS can be spread through needles. There is no public awareness campaign or free information available to help people to avoid getting infected. The Ministry of Health has only hung a few placards on the roadside. It will not be enough.
Nasim Fekrat blogs at Afghan Lord