Young drug users forgotten amid India AIDS success

Tue Jun 7, 2011 5:49am EDT
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By Sunil Kataria

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - Aslam began to smoke marijuana at the age of ten, lured into it by friends. Soon he graduated to other drugs, mostly heroin, stealing mobile phones and snatching gold necklaces from around women's necks to pay for his habit.

"When I tried it, I really liked it -- I had a feeling of stillness all around me, " said Aslam, now 17, of his drift into drugs and peer pressure -- and the threat of HIV.

"Yes, I am afraid but when you are under the influence of drugs, you do not realize anything," he added.

"When we do not have money then we just borrow each other's syringe and inject it."

As India applauds a sharp drop in the number of fresh AIDS infections over the past decade, health workers worry about the increasing number of young drug users who are being left out of efforts to reduce the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

With 2.3 million reported cases of AIDS, India -- like sub-Saharan Africa -- is at the front lines of the fight against the deadly virus.

Progress is being made. A UNAIDS report marking 30 years of the discovery of the disease said India's rate of new HIV infections fell by more than 50 percent between 2001-2009 - the global rate dropped by 25 percent.

But activists and others warn that an increasing number of substance-addicted children and adolescents who inject drugs are being left out of the fight.   Continued...