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Study: Myanmar is
the root of Asia's AIDS epidemic

Study: Myanmar is
the root of Asia's AIDS epidemic

According to a Council on Foreign Relations study authored by Laurie Garrett and released this week, genetic fingerprinting can trace HIV's spread throughout Asia to Myanmar. "With the exception of one serious outbreak in China, virtually all the strains of HIV now circulating in Asia--from Manipur, India, all the way to Vietnam, from mid China all the way down to Indonesia--come from a single country," Garrett told a news conference. Molecular epidemiology, or genetic fingerprinting, allowed scientists to identify changes in the evolution of the virus. "Several research teams have proven that these various HIV strains can be tracked along four major routes, all originating in Burma," Garrett said, using Myanmar's former name. The highest HIV infection rates are among prostitutes and heroin users in Myanmar, which was the world's top opium producer until 2003, when Afghanistan moved to first place.

"Burma is a failed state, rife with civil war and rival gangs of drug, gem, and sex-slave smugglers," according to the report, titled "HIV and National Security: Where Are the Links?"

Researchers using genetic fingerprinting have found that the rapidly growing HIV epidemic in Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltic states appears to stem from one strain spread by drug users nearly a decade ago. Garrett reported that nearly all the AIDS viruses circulating in the region closely match genetically; were introduced into the area in 1996-1997; and are being spread by injection-drug users. (Reuters)

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