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UNIS/NAR/833
3 March 2004

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Chief:


Drug Injection, Human Trafficking and Overcrowded Prisons
Are New Major Causes of ‘Explosive Spread of HIV/AIDS’
 

VIENNA, 3 March (UN Information Service) -- In tomorrow’s meeting of UNAIDS co-sponsoring organizations in Livingstone, Zambia, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), will present evidence of the relation between the HIV/AIDS infection on the one hand, and the trilogy of drug addiction, human trafficking, crime and punishment on the other.

“The sharing of contaminated needles and syringes among drug addicts is a significant cause of HIV infection,” Mr. Costa said.

There are approximately 12.6 million injecting drug users in the world. In some areas, up to 80 per cent of them are HIV-positive. In a number of countries – for example, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Viet Nam – the majority of people living with HIV/AIDS are injecting drug users.

“The most frightening development has been the explosive spread of HIV/AIDS. Once the virus enters the drug user community, it spreads rapidly, reaching – in some cases – an infection rate of more than 80 per cent in less than six months,” Mr. Costa said.

The same alarming trend has been recorded among the victims of human trafficking and among overcrowded prisons’ inmates who share drugs, needles and sex.

“There are over one million people who are estimated to be victims of human trafficking worldwide. These men, women and children are coerced into sex work, paedophilia and child exploitation. They are exposed to violence, exploitation and health infections,” Mr. Costa said.

The UNAIDS Committee of Co-sponsoring Organizations brings together nine United Nations system organizations whose goal is to help prevent new HIV infections, care for those already infected, and mitigate the impact of the epidemic. In addition to the discussion among the heads of the United Nations co-sponsoring organizations, the meeting in Livingstone, Zambia, includes a ministerial-level session with ministers from Southern African countries.

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