Feb. 21 2014

Despite global declines in HIV transmission over the past decade, the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is expanding, with reported increases of more than 25% in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (UNAIDS, 2012)

In a special supplement of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the complex nature of the paired HIV and drug addiction epidemics in Central Asia is characterized by leading experts in the field.

Drug_and_Alcohol_Suppl_news.jpgThe Mailman School’s ICAP, in collaboration with the Global Health Initiative and Columbia’s Global Health Research Center in Central Asia, celebrated the supplement of the Drug and Alcohol Dependence, "HIV and People Who Use Drugs in Central Asia: Confronting the Perfect Storm", at a launch event featuring presentations, a short film screening, and panel discussion on Tuesday, February 20.

The supplement brings together guest editors Wafaa El-Sadr, Nabila El-Bassel, and Steffanie Strathdee and a new generation of scientists and scholars from Central Asia working on this issue of HIV and people who inject drugs. It fills a critical gap in the available scholarship on HIV and people who inject drugs in Central Asia and can help to inform a broader discussion in the region and advocacy for changes in policy and practice.          

Dr. Wafaa El –Sadr, university professor, director of ICAP and professor of Epidemiology and Medicine and Dr. Nabila El-Bassel, director of the Global Health Research Center of Central Asia (GRRCCA) and professor of Social Work made introductory remarks at the launch event.

Guest speakers included Dr. Don Des Jarlais, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York City and Andrea Wirtz, MSH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. A screening of the Open Society Foundations sponsored film, “BALKA: Women, HIV, and Drug Use in Ukraine” was followed by a engaging panel discussion which included the symposium presenters, as well as Dr. Margaret McNairy, ICAP at Columbia University; Dr. Makhbatsho Bahromov, PRISMA, Research Center in Tajikistan; and Louisa Gilbert, Global Health Research Center of Central Asia.

Dr. El-Sadr guest edited the special issue with Dr. El-Bassel of GRRCA and Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, professor of global health at the University of California San Diego, School of Medicine. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) director, Dr. Nora Volkow and NIDA director of AIDS research, Dr. Jacques Normand, co-authored the preface to the Journal.

The supplement covers three areas:  Epidemiology of HIV and co-morbidities, harm reduction approaches, and HIV testing, care, and treatment for people who inject drugs in Central Asia. An article on access to HIV care and treatment in the region by Mailman School authors Drs. Margaret McNairy and Anna Deryabina, ICAP Country Director in Central Asia highlights the need for addressing structural barriers to enhancing access to all services, overcoming discriminatory practices and laws, and transforming the health system into one that is attuned to people who inject drugs and their families.