Bangladesh is stoking an emerging AIDS epidemic with violent police abuse of sex workers, injection drug users and men who have sex with men. In this 51-page report, Human Rights Watch documents rapes, gang-rapes, beatings and abductions by both police officers and powerful criminals known as mastans. Their targets — sex workers, men who have sex with men and injection drug users — are both at high risk of HIV infection and the people most capable of bringing AIDS information and services to their peers. In a direct blow to the fight against AIDS, some of the abuses are committed against AIDS outreach workers. In one region of Bangladesh, HIV prevalence among injection drug users jumped from 1.7 percent in 2001 to 4 percent in 2002. While HIV prevalence in the population overall is reportedly still low, the country’s poverty, gender inequality, and proximity to raging epidemics in India and Southeast Asia point to the possibility of an AIDS explosion. Human Rights Watch urged Bangladesh to institute civilian review of police officers, to prosecute police and mastans who perpetrate abuses, to bring its criminal procedures in line with international standards, and to support peer-driven AIDS prevention services among persons at high risk of HIV.
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