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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Scores Test Positive for HIV In 'Drug Capital' of Belarus

MINSK -- Scores of drug users in a small town in Belarus have tested positive for the AIDS virus, the country's top AIDS-prevention official said Wednesday.


At least 158 people have tested positive for the HIV virus, and tests are pending on 20 others in Svetlogorsk, which is known as the "drug capital" of this former Soviet republic.


Police say the town of 76,000 about 100 kilometers southeast of the capital Minsk has at least 1,000 known intravenous drug users.


"In their environment, the infection develops like a landslide," Dr. Valery Glazovsky, head of Belarus' AIDS-prevention program, said on national television Wednesday morning. "The situation can easily get out of control."


Like most of the former Soviet Union, Belarus has been relatively free of AIDS. In the past three years, only 11 people have died of AIDS in Belarus. Until the new rash of HIV-positive cases was uncovered, 130 people in Belarus were known to carry the virus.


The outbreak was uncovered after three patients at the local psychiatric hospital, all known drug users, tested positive for HIV. Health officials then began testing other known intravenous drug users.


By Wednesday, 158 people had tested positive for the virus, 20 more tests were pending and health officials had stopped accepting blood donations as a precaution.