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Drug Abuse Imperils African Advances

Drug Abuse Imperils African Advances

Gains made against HIV infection in Africa are being threatened by an increase in drug abuse and drug injection, warned health officials meeting this week in Sweden.

"It's a very worrying situation," said Jennifer Kimani, head of Kenya's National Campaign Against Drug Abuse. She noted that the prevalence of HIV infection among injecting drugs users was 68% to 88%.

In addition to concerns about the transmission of disease through unclean needles, participants at Stockholm's World Forum Against Drugs noted that the use of drugs is associated with an increased risk of unsafe sex practices.

Olawale Maiyegun, head of the African Union's Social Affairs Department, bemoaned the lack of good data on the prevalence of the drug problem and its impact on HIV/AIDS.

"It is feared that the next round of an HIV/AIDS epidemic might be [prompted] by drug injection," he said.

Experts said that behind the increase is the growing role of eastern and southern African nations as "transit countries" for drug smuggling. East Africa is "the major conduit for smuggling heroin from southwest Asia into Africa [and on to] Europe and North America," according to a 2008 report from the UN Narcotics Control Board.

"The history of society has shown that when you're a transit country, sooner or later it will increase consumption. That is already happening," Maiyegun said.

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