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UN Says HIV Rate Sharply Increases In Uzbekistan

(RFE/RL) November 22, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- UNAIDS, the United Nations' joint program on HIV/AIDS, has warned that the rate of HIV infections in Uzbekistan has been rapidly increasing in recent years.

Bertil Lindblad, UNAIDS country coordinator, said the majority of new cases of HIV infection in Central Asia have been recorded in Uzbekistan, which now has the largest epidemic in the region.

"In 1999 there were only 28 [new] cases reported," Lindblad said. "That number increased to 1,836 cases in 2003. 2006, that number of newly reported cases has risen to 2,205."

According to UNAIDS figures, there are some 9,000 Uzbeks living with HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- the largest number of the people infected with the deadly virus in Central Asia. With about 8,800 cases, Kazakhstan comes a close second.

Lindblad told RFE/RL that most of the newly infected people in Uzbekistan are illegal drug users.

In its latest report, "2007 AIDS Epidemic Update," published on November 20, UNAIDS said the lack of awareness about the disease and its prevention has been a big factor in the spread of the virus among the population.

However, Lindblad said Uzbek authorities have been working closely with international institutions to try to prevent a further increase of HIV/AIDS in the country.

There are an estimated 33.2 million people around the world who are living with HIV, 1.6 million of those in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

(RFE/RL's Uzbek Service contributed to this report.)

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