“The savage cuts to Greece’s health service budget have led to a sharp rise in HIV/AIDS and malaria in the beleaguered nation, said a leading aid organization on Thursday,” the Guardian’s “News Blog” reports. “The incidence of HIV/AIDS among intravenous drug users in central Athens soared by 1,250 percent in the first 10 months of 2011 compared with the same period the previous year, according to” Reveka Papadopoulos, “the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres [MSF] Greece, while malaria is becoming endemic in the south for the first time since … the 1970s,” the blog notes.
Russia Should Abandon ‘Zero-Tolerance’ Approach To Drug Use And Implement Proven Prevention Strategies
Why have effective, “simple tools such as Medication Assisted Therapy (methadone, buprenorphine) and clean needle-exchange services” — methods that are “very effective in decreasing drug abuse and reducing risk of infection with HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases” â€“ “had so little impact on the policies and programs of the Russian Federation?” Bertrand Audoin, executive director of the International AIDS Society, and Chris Beyrer, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, write in this New York Times opinion piece. With an “estimated number of injecting drug users [at] 1.8 million, and the estimated number of opiate users exceed[ing] 1.6 million,” and more than one million people living with HIV, “Russia now accounts for two thirds of the Eastern Europe and Central Asian HIV epidemic, the fastest growing in the world,” they write.
Russian Government’s Censorship Of Websites With Harm Reduction Methods For Drug Users Helps Fuel HIV Epidemic, IPS Reports
“A recent government crackdown on Russian media, particularly online information portals specializing in health tips and harm reduction methods for drug users, has sparked widespread public opposition, with critics claiming that the ‘draconian silencing’ of public health advocates could worsen an already perilous health situation in the country,” Inter Press Service reports. “Given that Russia currently has one of the largest populations of injecting drug users in the world as well as one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics, the dissemination of such information is essential to keep the spread of the virus under control,” IPS writes. “The fact that the United Nations listed universal treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS as one of its most urgent millennium development goals (MDGs) — with a deadline of achieving universal treatment by 2015 — human rights and health advocates contend that Russia’s failure to allow information or services helpful to drug users breaches international human rights and public health laws,” according to the news service (Klomegah, 2/17).
U.N. Says Asia Pacific Region Making Strides Against HIV/AIDS, Must Address Social And Legal Barriers To Treatment, Prevention
The U.N. Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific (ESCAP) on Monday in Bangkok “opened a three-day meeting lauding impressive gains in recent years in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” but the body cautioned “there are still legal and social barriers that significantly set back eradication efforts,” VOA News reports. U.N. ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer “note[d] the gains are uneven and there are still gaps in the goal of universal access to HIV treatment,” the news service writes.
“About 200 million people around the world use illegal drugs every year, and that may be taking a toll on health and death rates in various countries, says a report released Thursday in the Lancet,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog reports. According to the blog, “[t]he study, part of a series the journal is doing on addiction, offers a plethora of information about [the] use of opioids, amphetamines, cocaine and marijuana worldwide” (Stein, 1/5).
“New HIV cases and AIDS deaths are both going steadily down in British Columbia, according to data released last week,” the New York Times reports. Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said, “We’re particularly pleased to see that our treatment-as-prevention strategy has taken off big-time,” the newspaper notes, adding that the strategy, which aggressively identifies and treats people with HIV, “lowers by 96 percent the chances that they will infect others.” The New York Times writes, “Montaner said he is frustrated that rich countries will not donate enough money to roll out the strategy in poor countries with huge HIV epidemics” (McNeil, 1/2).
Though Russia is doubling its budget for HIV in 2012 over 2010 levels, “no money will go to such internationally recognized efforts as needle exchanges” and methadone replacement therapy, Reuters reports. “Moscow doesn’t believe these approaches help slow the spread of HIV/AIDS,” and “[s]ome health workers and global HIV authorities are angered and baffled by Russia’s approach, which they say will only aggravate the problem,” the news service writes. The article examines how government spending for HIV will be used, with only three percent of about $600 million expected to go toward prevention programs in 2012, and how non-governmental organizations are coping with cuts in funding from international donor programs (Ferris-Rotman/Koppel, 12/21).
“Austerity measures brought in to tackle Europe’s economic crisis may cause a rise in drug-related HIV infections as stretched health services struggle to cope, the E.U.’s narcotics agency said on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. “Greece, which is facing huge cutbacks, reported a large outbreak of HIV infections among drug users in July, the Lisbon-based agency said in its yearly report,” the news agency writes, noting, “New infections were also reported in Bulgaria, Estonia and Lithuania, it added.”
Reuters examines how a worsening economic crisis in Greece is affecting the country’s health system, highlighting a 36 percent decrease in health spending by Greeks this year, according to the National School of Public Health, and an increase of more than 50 percent in new cases of HIV from the first five months of 2010 to the same period this year. The news service also notes a rise in depression and suicide, writing, “Greeks are swallowing 35 percent more antidepressants than they did five years ago, according to the National School of Public Health. The health ministry says suicides are up 40 percent so far this year.”
“Vancouver’s Insite clinic, the only such safe-injection site for [people who use drugs] in North America, can stay open, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Friday in a landmark defeat for the federal government,” Reuters reports. “The country’s top court … ruled unanimously that closing the site would threaten the lives of drug users and therefore violate their human rights,” the news agency writes (Ljunggren, 9/30).