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HIV Infections on the Rise in North Korea
The Chosunilbo
June 26, 2019
Lee Young-wan

HIV infections are reportedly on the rise in North Korea despite boasts by the regime that the impoverished country is completely free of the virus.

According to the U.S. magazine Science, infections often spread through the use of dirty syringes and are exacerbated by a lack of antiretroviral drugs.

"North Korea actually had 8,362 HIV-positive individuals in 2018," the magazine said citing a study by Mary Smith Fawzi of Harvard Medical School and other experts. "The first confirmed infection of a North Korean came in January 1999, the researchers say, and infections have surged in the past few years."

The study began when North Korean health authorities turned to a New York-based, Korean-American civic group called DoDaum for help in dealing with a surge in HIV infections in rural areas.

According to the study, the majority of HIV infections were blamed on blood donations and the use of tainted hypodermic needles. But a significant number stemmed from prostitution.

North Korea declared itself HIV-free at a ceremony in Pyongyang on Dec. 1, 2018 marking World AIDS Day, with visiting World Health Organization officials. But the celebratory mood did not last long.

Kim Mun-song at the North Korean Ministry of Public Health told Science, "Reporting the existence of these patients may lead to a backlash but not reporting and not recognizing the existence will perpetuate the issue of not having treatments."

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