Monday, November 13, 2006

China's Muslims Awake to Nexus of Needles and AIDS

An issue that has been given little comment is the possibility of the spread of AIDS in Central Asia. Like other societies there is of course a reluctance to bring it up -- my colleague Shanti Parikh has discovered in Uganda that people won't discuss it even as the disease is decimating the population. That the Chinese are addressing the problem in Xinjiang is something new in Central Asia. The rumours all through the area are that various forms of homosexuality are not uncommon, and that the numbers people addicted to heroin are growing rapidly according to all estimates. Both these practices are said to be associated with the AIDS epidemic. So it's worth taking note that at least in Xinjiang the the Chinese officials are taking the problem seriously. Will that happen in Afghanistan? Pakistan? Iran? The ex-Soviet Central Asian states? Probably not for a good while. And what could that mean over the long term?

China’s Muslims Awake to Nexus of Needles and AIDS

Publised: November 12, 2006 (New York Times)

The story of Almijan, a gaunt 31-year-old former silk trader with nervous eyes, has all the markings of a public health nightmare.

... The way the authorities handled Mr. Almijan, including his treatment with methadone, is part of a sea change by the Chinese public health establishment, which is struggling to confront an increase in intravenous drug use and an attendant rise in AIDS cases in Xinjiang, an overwhelmingly Muslim region close to the rich poppy fields of Afghanistan and near the border with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan...

No comments: