In an Arab world abundant with the stigma, with inaction of government

In an Arab world abundant with the stigma, with inaction of government

Beirut : Lebanon | Dec 08, 2011 at 6:51 PM PST
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The Arab Street - Beirut - 30 May 09 - Part 2

In an Arab world abundant with the stigma, with inaction of government and often limited access to education and health care, experts warn that HIV is an epidemic of dawn.

"In the Middle East and North Africa, the HIV epidemic was the dawn for the past decade," said Aleksandar Sasha Bodiroza, the consultant on HIV / AID United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

"The number of people needing treatment in the region has spiked from about 45,000 in 2001 to almost 160,000 in 2010," Bodiroza told AFP. "This has put the Middle East and North Africa between the top two regions in the world with the HIV epidemic the fastest growing". One United Nations report released this month said the number of people who become infected with HIV has slowed around the world, with AIDS-related deaths on the decline even as access to treatment becomes more extended.

But the Arab world has been slow to reach. Here, the contraction of the currency of the HIV and AIDS-related deaths increase as public awareness, the response of government and access to adequate medical services have been slow to progress. While there is little reliable data on the Middle East and North Africa, the United Nations estimates between 350,000 and 570,000 people living with the HIV virus in the region, home to a population estimated at 367 million plus.

One study, published recently in the open access Public Library of Science, has put the rates of infection among men who have sex with men in Cairo, Egypt 5.7 percent to 9.3 percent in the capital Khartoum and the Sudanese capital.

And while some countries have begun to take small steps to fight a growing but have quelled the problem, the show of shame and stigma very little sign of diminishing in a region where one same-sex relationships and premarital sex are often a crime .

That stigma has become a natural thing for a young man in Beirut, reached through a group that provides free support for people who are HIV positive or suffering from acquired immune deficiency syndrome. "If I should sum it up in one word, I would say that my life is a big secret," said the 29 year old, who has learned that three years is HIV positive.

"As I came out to my family so long ago, this is something I have not shared with them. I could not never load them with it." The infection is concentrated as usual among high-risk groups, including injecting drug operators, men who have sex with men and sex workers and their clients.

"Life for someone carrying the HIV virus is very difficult ... suffer from an inability to talk freely with the disease of people who are close to them and we have cases where individuals have been thrown out of the family," said Brigitte Khoury , clinical psychologist at the American University of Beirut Medical Center.

"So while some families have the support, is primarily a life of secrecy, deception and living in fear of the worst." That fear, experts say, is often what keeps the HIV-positive individuals to seek treatment.

"Stigma and discrimination are among the primary reasons that people living with HIV or populations leading to higher risk of HIV infection have access to essential HIV services," said Bodiroza.

"These two factors limit the ability of governments and civil society to provide services." Many states in the Arab world require that foreigners bring a test of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome before issuing permits, visas or interned.

The manufacture abut this month was the case of a South African journalist who was deported by Qatar after being diagnosed with HIV and sacked from the wing-Jazeera satellite network.

Section27, a public interest legal group based in South Africa, has asked the country's delegation to the Organization of International labor to file a complaint against Qatar. But the most liberal countries in the region have begun to publicize the problem, with a media campaign in Egypt and Lebanon, hitting the airwaves and billboards last month. The "Talk" campaign, which runs until the end of December, is organized by UNFPA in partnership with the two countries' ministries of health and encourages people to be tested.

The campaign, which has the main role in Lebanon before a miss and a band wildly popular Mashrou3 Leila, also provides a list of free and anonymous testing centers for both countries. But despite the progress, experimental, experts say that governments are less likely than ever to turn their attention to the epidemic, which is located in a region gripped by political upheaval.


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In an Arab world
In an Arab world abundant with the stigma, with inaction of government
FaujiMunda is based in Karāchi, Sind, Pakistan, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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