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Belarus: HIV Infections Soar In Town

By Stuart Parrot

London, 17 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) says 800 new cases of HIV infection have been identified this year in the Belarus town of Svetlogorsk, which is suffering the most serious epidemic of any town in the former U.S.S.R.

Alexander Gromyko, the WHO's regional adviser on HIV/AIDS, told our London correspondent today: "This is an extremely high incidence."

The statistic means that one in 90 of Svetlogorsk's population (72,000 people) was identified as carrying the HIV virus in the first nine months of this year. The HIV virus can lead to the fatal disease AIDS.

Gromyko said that due to different disease-reporting standards in various countries "it is not appropriate to state that Svetlogorsk has the highest incidence of HIV infection in the world."

Doctors in Svetlogorsk blame the high HIV infection rate on drug addicts who share needles and syringes to inject themselves, thus exchanging body fluids. They say the town has 5,000 drug addicts.

Gromyko said that until the beginning of this year, Belarus had diagnosed only 100 cases of HIV infection.