US and Russia must prevent spread of AIDS by stopping the influx of heroine

Preventing illegal drug trafficking in Afghanistan and Central Asia should be the priority for Russia and the US in their fight against the spread of AIDS. As a Rosbalt correspondent reports, this was announced yesterday by Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Russian-American working group for the prevention of AIDS and head of the Russian international affairs committee.

The first meeting of the working group is to take place in Moscow on May 14-16. The working group is an independent body which brings together politicians, entrepreneurs and other people from US and Russia who are working together to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Mr Margelov pointed out that 70% of the time people become infected with AIDS by injecting drugs. Afghanistan is the main supplier of heroine to Russia. Mr Margelov added that according to the UN heroine production has increased 14 times over since the overthrow of the Taliban regime. As a result, drug trafficking from Afghanistan to Europe has become a critical problem once again, said Mr Margelov. He stressed that Russian border guards will not be able to prevent the flow of illegal drugs single-handedly. He said he was pleased that a government committee to prevent the illegal trade of drugs had been formed and praised the work of this committee. He expressed the hope that the committee and the Russian-American working group will be able to work effectively together.

Mr Margelov said that according to the Russian Health Ministry there are currently 200 thousand HIV victims registered in Russia and 4.5 thousand have AIDS. However, according to unofficial sources, the true number of HIV victims is actually close to 1 million, about the same number as in the US. Mr Margelov stressed the importance of the Russian-American working group. 'Security is the priority in Russian-US relations. This is not only true for those people linked to Al-Qaeda but also for those involved in the fight against AIDS. We regard this problem as one of the most important areas of Russian-US cooperation.'

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