booming opium trade is a huge concern for Pakistan as it
confronts the spread of HIV, especially among intravenous
drug users, Pakistan's minister of health said on
its first case of HIV infection in 1987, and the number
of confirmed cases is now 3,556--more than 300 of whom have
developed AIDS--but experts say the true figure could
be many times higher.
Mohammad Naseer Khan said Pakistan was a low-prevalence
but high-risk country when it came to HIV.
was already committed to the fight against the disease,
but efforts had to be intensified to tackle Afghanistan's
booming output of opium--the raw material for heroin,
"We are committed
for a strong program to combat HIV/AIDS, especially
the [injection drug] users," Khan told a news conference.
Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes said recently that
Afghanistan's opium harvest had set a record this year, with
production 50% higher than last year.
Afghanistan you have the highest production of opium to
date. Ten years ago it nearly reached zero," said Khan, who
attended a U.N. meeting on injection drug use and HIV
on Wednesday. "So that's a huge concern for Pakistan.
More has to be done by the government of Afghanistan
and also all the donor agencies and coalition forces to stop
Nations had asked Afghanistan's NATO security force to do
something about the drug problem, a senior U.N. official
said. "The U.N. is very much concerned," Jan
Vandemoortele, U.N. resident coordinator in Pakistan,
told the news conference. "Our program of poppy
eradication, of course, is not yielding the results
Khan said public
information was also vital in the fight against AIDS.
"We don't have to be pornographic about HIV/AIDS, but we
must tell our children what it is and how to stay away
from it," he said. "In Pakistan we do not shy away
from our responsibilities; it is affecting our
children also.... We have a very strong program in the
country. We are reaching out to IDUs." (Reuters)