Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan: a window of opportunity
14 September 2006
While the AIDS epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia continues to grow and is affecting more and more societies in this region, the epidemics in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have remained relatively small.
In 2005 UNAIDS estimated that 4,900 people were living with HIV in Tajikistan and 4,000 in Kyrgyzstan. That same year, it was estimated that AIDS claimed less than 100 lives in each country.
During her visit to the region in July 2006, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific Dr. Nafis Sadik, congratulated both countries for their efforts to prevent the spread of HIV, saying that with continued national leadership and international assistance Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan had a real possibility getting ahead of the epidemic.
However, despite the relatively low numbers of people living with HIV and of AIDS-related deaths in both countries, recent surveys show evidence of growing numbers of HIV infections among injecting drug users, prisoners and sex workers.
“This data is very alarming, since there are many factors that contribute to the spread of the HIV epidemic,” said the Minister of Health, Dr. Faisullaev during a presentation of the country’s National Plan on AIDS. “If we continue the way we do the HIV epidemic will become generalized,” he added.
Underlining her call for continued comprehensive efforts to curb the epidemic, Dr. Sadik stressed that HIV prevention must be the mainstay of the national response, and urged both governments to commit to ensuring that a wide range of prevention programmes are made available to the general population through high-level advocacy and education at the national and regional level. “To be successful, HIV prevention must make use of all approaches known to be effective, not implementing exclusively one or a few select actions in isolation,” said Dr. Sadik.
Dr Sadik also emphasized that all stakeholders must be involved in the response to AIDS, especially with regard to prevention activities. In Tajikistan she met with a group of women’s NGOs and with a group of people living with HIV to learn more about their situation, what they need and how they can contribute to the AIDS response.
Acknowledging that faith based organizations have a critical role to play, Dr Sadik also met with the rector of the Tajik Islamic University to advocate for greater involvement of faith based organizations. She also discussed with him the importance of preventing and reducing the stigmatization of people living with HIV, promoting tolerant attitudes, the protection of women’s rights in reproductive health and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
“Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan provide living examples that prevention works to contain the epidemic,” said Dr Sergei Furgal from UNAIDS European Regional Support Team in Geneva. “Their efforts should be acknowledged and some countries may find lessons to draw from their experience with HIV,” he added.