Wednesday, September 03, 2014

AIDS in the Arab World

I missed this a couple of days ago, but the Arab world has a growing AIDS epidemic:
At a time when HIV rates have stabilised or declined elsewhere, the epidemic is still advancing in the Arab world, exacerbated by factors such as political unrest, conflict, poverty and lack of awareness due to social taboos...
The United Nations estimates that there were 31,000 new cases and 16,500 new deaths in 2012 alone. “Infections grew by 74 percent between 2001 and 2012 while AIDS-related deaths almost tripled,” says Dr Matta Matta, an infection specialist based at the Bellevue Hospital in Lebanon...
With the exception of Somalia and Djibouti, the epidemic is generally concentrated in vulnerable populations at higher risk, such as men-who-have-sex-with-men, female and male sex workers, and injecting drugs users...
The legal framework criminalising such activities in most Arab countries means that it is difficult to reach out to specific groups.  With the exception of Tunisia, which recognises legalised sex work, female sex workers who work clandestinely in other countries are not safeguarded by law and thus cannot force their clients to use protection, which allows for the spread of disease.
Lack of awareness, the absence of voluntary testing and of sexual education, social taboos, as well as poverty, are among the factors driving HIV in the region. “Arab governments and societies deny the epidemic and the absence of voluntary testing means that for every infected person we have ten others that we do not know about,” stresses Moalla.


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