By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government approved on Thursday a five-year program to prevent the spread of AIDS and HIV in the country. Officials said the plan puts the emphasis on preemptive measures such as better education of the vulnerable groups of the population.
The measures will be coordinated by a special commission comprising senior officials from various government agencies. Health Minister Ararat Mkrtchian said the lack of such coordination has created a “fertile ground” for the increase in the number of people suffering from the deadly disease and the virus which causes it.
According to the health ministry data, there are now 169 registered HIV carriers and 29 persons infected with AIDS in Armenia. Mkrtchian admitted that their actual number is much higher. According to the United Nations Development Program, at least 1,500 Armenians are currently suffering from HIV or AIDS.
According to the health ministry, 19 residents of Armenia have died of AIDS since 1988.
The government believes that rising prostitution, drug addiction and a low level of public awareness of the problem are the main factors contributing to the spread of the disease. A survey conducted by the government’s Center for AIDS Prevention in 2000 found that as many as 14 percent of drug addicts may be affected by it.
Officials gave no estimates as to the total cost of the anti-AIDS program. Mkrtchian said only that the government will turn to international organizations for an unspecified amount of financial assistance.