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Former Eastern Block Urged To Address AIDS Crisis

UN Urges States Of Former Soviet Union To Respond At Once To Hiv/Aids Crisis

With Eastern Europe and Central Asia experiencing one of the world's fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemics, United Nations bodies leading the fight against the scourge today called on the former Soviet countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to forge an immediate broad-based response to the crisis.

"The increased political commitment we are seeing is encouraging but this must be translated into action on the ground," Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director Peter Piot told a meeting in Moscow of CIS ministers of health, justice, interior, development and social services.

"AIDS requires an exceptional response, one that starts at the highest political level," he added, noting that more than 80 per cent of reported HIV infections are in young people under the age of 29. "This will affect the region's socio-economic development and security if action is not taken now."

UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa, current chair of UNAIDS Committee of Cosponsoring organizations, urged governments to do the right thing.

"This meeting is happening at the right time, for the right reasons and at the right place," he said. "Roughly 1.4 million in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region are estimated to be living with HIV and AIDS. In some countries, up to 80 per cent of HIV cases are attributable to drug abuse."

Mr. Costa also called on governments to pass the legislation many countries will need to begin the campaign against the spread of HIV. "Without the appropriate legal framework, governments cannot move forward with effective policies and programmes," he stressed.

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