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In Kyrgyzstan, she says, the disease is spreading quickly and the general response is to isolate those who contract it. Kirichenko says that about people come to her center each month to get tested. We need to get the word to those at high-risk—drug addicts—of contracting HIV to come and get tested too. Kyrgyzstan was once confident it was immune from HIV. Today, the drug trade from Afghanistan continues to pose a serious threat.
In fact, United Nations officials say one-half of all drugs trafficked from Afghanistan pass through Central Asian countries such as Kyrgyzstan. The drug route has led to a large population of drug addicts in Kyrgyzstan—50, according to government statistics but known to actually be many times that number—who are hooked on opium and heroin. The lack of clean needles and treatment programs, couple with the intense aversion to testing, is said to be why the number of HIV-infected drug addicts keeps rising.
Moreover, some men are unwilling to buy, or accept free condoms, out of fear of being associated with AIDS, she adds. And, those who are properly diagnosed must rely on a health care system that is lacking in drugs for treatment. Government statistics show that while more men than women are infected, infection is increasing at a slightly faster rate among women than men. In November, there were officially registered HIV-infected persons nationwide. Forty of them—or 10 percent—were women, but local health workers think those numbers are in fact far higher.
A woman cannot refuse sex or assert the use of condoms without risking a violent reaction. Jamankulova also blames poverty. Not only do women fear asserting themselves in the home because of their economic dependence on their husbands, many impoverished female teen-agers leave their rural communities, move to Bishkek and begin work as prostitutes.
Further, while officials acknowledge the problem, they have yet to formulate a strategic prevention plan. Causes include increased drug use, sexual activity at an earlier age and growing numbers of sex workers. HIV infection rates in the region are estimated to have increased five-fold between and No other organization is as focused on educating women as we are.