$8.7m grant signed to scale up fight against HIV
KABUL (Pajhwok): The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund on Wednesday signed a $8.7 million grant with the Ministry of Public Health to scale up HIV prevention measures and treatment for people most at risk of contracting the virus.
The epidemic continues to spread among key populations at higher risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Injecting drug use is a major driver of HIV infections in Afghanistan, a country that is also the world’s leading producer of opium and heroin.
A statement from UNDP said a combination of injecting practices involving the use of non-sterile equipment, high-risk sexual behaviour, punitive policies and stigma towards people who inject drugs are fuelling the epidemic.
The most recent drug use survey showed eight per cent of the population aged 15-64 is dependent on drugs, with significant increases in the number of people who use opium and heroin.
Minister of Public Health Ferozudd in Ferozsaid: “With this grant we’ll be able to expand treatment and care for people living with HIV, boost our prevention efforts and raise awareness among vulnerable groups that are key to controlling and reversing the HIV epidemic.”
Men with high-risk sexual behaviour may play a larger role in HIV transmission than previously thought. They also experience stigma and discrimination in their own families and communities, and are confronted with punitive laws, prosecution and a lack of access to HIV prevention services.
UNDP Country Director Douglas Keh said: “Without reducing stigma associated with drug use, and implementing prevention programmes that treat every person with dignity, compassion, and respect, regardless of circumstance or condition, Afghanistan’s efforts to curb the HIV epidemic will fall short. We need to go the extra mile and this new grant will help us do it,”
To address high levels of stigma and discrimination, the grant will strengthen legal and policy environments in order to promote access to HIV prevention, treatment and support for people vulnerable to and affected by HIV, securing their meaningful involvement in the response to HIV in Afghanistan.
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