In DepthInfectious Disease

North Korea's HIV epidemic emerges from the shadows

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Science  28 Jun 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6447, pp. 1215-1216
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6447.1215

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Summary

North Korean officials have long denied that the HIV virus has infected any citizen of their nation. In fact, however, they have been quietly tracking a mushrooming AIDS threat. North Korea actually had 8362 HIV-positive individuals in 2018, estimates a report that a team of researchers from North Korea and the United States has submitted to the preprint server medRxiv. The first confirmed infection of a North Korean citizen came in January 1999, the researchers note, and infections have surged in the past few years. The national prevalence now stands at 0.069%, the team estimates. That is low compared with many countries; the U.S. figure is about 0.6%. Still, North Korea is struggling to combat the problem, and the authors of the study are calling on the international community to do more to help the country fight HIV/AIDS. And they warn that a spiraling epidemic could prompt North Korea's government to adopt "austere measures to contain the disease," including criminalizing HIV status and detaining or deporting people living with the virus.

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