Number of HIV Cases in Armenia Exceeds Official Data

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The AIDS situation in Armenia is not so favorable. According to official data–the number of HIV-infected persons and AIDS patients in Armenia is 124–but in fact the real number is several hundred people–the National AIDS Prevention Center claims.

"We have no finances for diagnosing the disease–and if the situation does not change–we’ll stop at the number 124–while the real threat of an epidemic will keep growing," Director of the AIDS Prevention Center Samvel Grigorian said. To substantiate his words he presented the results of a situation analysis that was conducted in Armenia for the first time as part of the national anti-AIDS program. The program is being implemented with the assistance of the UNAIDS and UNDP.

To assess the situation in Armenia–the Center conducted selective studies among the risk groups–drug addicts–prostitutes–homosexuals in places of confinement–as well as people suffering from venereal diseases and those recommended to pass medical tests for HIV.

The calculations show that in the group of drug addicts sharing needles–the number of HIV-infected people may reach 300 to 350. The data is based on the number of drug addicts in Yerevan whose numbers range from 19,000 to 24,000–10 percent of them being drug addicts using syringes. It was this particular group that showed an HIV-positive reaction. All these people were not registered at the AIDS Prevention Center before.

An alarming situation may be observed in another risk group: prostitutes. From 0.5 percent to 6 percent of them (around 240 prostitutes) may be HIV-infected. The threat of the spread of the disease grows–as only 32 percent of the drug addicts and 70 percent of prostitutes use means of protection. All the circumstances considered–it can be forecast that at least among the drug addicts using injections–the number of HIV-infected people will reach 40 percent to 60 percent within the next 2-3 years.

Grigorian said that exact diagnoses may only be made by means of special test-systems which the Center has not received from the government for a long time. The Center is still using the rest of the test-systems which were supplied by the Armenicum enterprise for joint research.

Grigorian also commented on the research of British scientists who announced the discovery of a new AIDS vaccine. First–he said–the test of the effectiveness of the vaccine will take a long time. Secondly–the vaccine is not a treatment–it is used by healthy people to prevent being infected. AIDS patients cannot be vaccinated–they will remain HIV-carriers. Grigorian expressed optimism that a national anti-AIDS plan will be adopted by the end of the year with the participation of all the organizations concerned–and the government will finally take a serious approach to the problem.


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