AIDS spreading in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Experts and activists are warning that AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is on the rise even as a global conference reports progress on other fronts.
An estimated 1.5 million adults and children were living with HIV in the region in 2008, a 66 percent increase from 900,000 in 2001, according to the United Nations.
Early indications show that the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases climbed again last year, with the Russian Federation, Georgia and Belarus reporting an increase in reported cases of 8, 10 and 22 percent, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS.
Of particular concern to experts, policymakers and activists gathered at the AIDS 2010 conference is that those suffering from the deadly disease in the region are often stigmatized, criminalized and denied access to lifesaving treatment.
"Eastern Europe has some of the highest concentrations of HIV among people who inject drugs," said Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS. "This epidemic is inflamed by stigma and punitive laws and won’t stop burning until harm reduction and drug substitution are scaled up."
Some 3.7 million people in the region inject drugs and are believed to be the main transmitters of the virus.
According to UNICEF, the epidemic is increasingly affecting young people in the region.