VIENNA, 16 March (UNODC) - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the OPEC Fund for International Development are launching a four million dollar project to improve HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment among drug users and prisoners in five Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan.
UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa and OPEC Fund Director-General Suleiman J. Al-Herbish signed an agreement on Thursday launching a project entitled "Effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care among vulnerable populations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan."
Each organization will contribute two million dollars over the next four years. Kazakhstan will donate an additional $1.2 million in kind.
"Compared with other regions in the world, Central Asia is experiencing the fastest growth in HIV/AIDS, mainly among injecting drug users and in prison populations," Mr Costa said.
"This project can help prevent a major HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region and I hope it will serve as a model for other regions. With UNODC's expertise in HIV/AIDS prevention among drug users and in prisons and the OPEC Fund's generous support, we will be able to work with the governments concerned in order to achieve sustainable results."
Mr Al-Herbish added: "The successful collaboration between the OPEC Fund and UNODC to limit the transmission and impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic will be strengthened by this project for the benefit of severely affected groups in Central Asia.''
The OPEC Fund for International Development has been an active partner in the global battle against HIV/AIDS since 2001. It has committed over US$34 million in 14 joint projects with UNAIDS sponsoring organizations, benefiting 78 countries.
HIV/AIDS specialists from UNODC will help governments to develop comprehensive national prevention and care programmes among drug users and prisoners. This new project brings the volume of UNODC's demand reduction/HIV portfolio in Central Asia to more than $7 million.
The number of drug abusers in the region has been increasing over the last decade and is now estimated at more than half a million. About 80 per cent of these inject opiates, mainly heroin. Injecting drug users account for 60 to 80 per cent of all HIV infections in the region.
The OPEC Fund for International Development is an intergovernmental development finance institution established in 1976 by the member states of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. UNODC assists United Nations Member States in addressing the related issues of drug control, crime prevention and international terrorism in the context of sustainable development and human security.
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