- BARCELONA (Reuters Health)
- The HIV epidemic in the former Soviet Union is growing faster than anywhere
in the world and threatens to spread from injecting drug users into the
wider population unless action is taken, researchers said on Thursday.
- About 28 million of the 40 million people infected with
HIV worldwide are currently in Africa, but experts warn that the number
of cases in Asia and Eastern Europe could explode in coming years.
- "From a small number of cases in 1995, HIV infections
have grown so quickly that an estimated 1 million people in the former
Soviet Union are infected with HIV--more than in the US," Dr. Anna
Shakarishvili from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told
reporters at the International AIDS Conference.
- At present, 90% of HIV-infected people in former Soviet
states are injecting drug users, but Shakarishvili and colleagues from
the Russian Association for Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention now
report worrying signs of an epidemic among sex workers and the homeless
that threatens to spread further through heterosexual sex.
- The researchers studied 400 non-drug using men and women
at homeless detention centers in Moscow and found that 1% were HIV positive,
compared with just 0.18% in the general population.
- Thirty percent were infected with sexually transmitted
diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea, which increase the risk of becoming
infected with HIV.
- Over 64% of men and 40% of women in the study said they
did not use a condom the last 10 times they had sex, Shakarishvili added.
- In another study, the researchers looked at HIV rates
and risk-taking among 190 women who exchanged sex for money or other commodities,
only 21% of whom considered themselves as sex workers.
- Of these women, 2.8% were HIV positive and around 70%
had one or more sexually transmitted disease.
- The women had an average of 168 partners in the past
year, 1% took opiate drugs and 5% took cannabis. Ninety percent said they
used condoms, 63.2% practiced oral sex and 15.8% had anal sex.
- "This research shows marginalized women are at significant
risk through heterosexual sex," Shakarishvili said. "Without
intervention, the epidemic could spread more widely to the general heterosexual
population through commercial sex work."
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