Three Times as Many People Living With HIV/AIDS in Middle East, West Asia Than Three Years Ago, WHO Reports
The number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the Middle East and West Asia has more than tripled over the last three years, according to new figures released at a World Health Organization conference in Cairo, Egypt, last week, Agence France-Presse reports. The figures indicate that 700,000 people are HIV-positive in the Eastern Mediterranean region -- which includes 18 countries, including Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan -- compared with 220,000 HIV-positive people in the region in 1999. In addition, the proportion of HIV-positive people who are women nearly doubled in 2000 to 32% of the total number of cases, up from 17% in previous years. Jihane Tawileh, head of the WHO HIV/AIDS program in the region, said that many of the countries do not have the equipment, staff and facilities to deal with the increasing number of people affected by the disease. She also called on officials in the region to include HIV/AIDS treatment in their free medical care programs, adding that curbing the spread of the disease is "not hopeless if there is adequate medicine." An unnamed conference attendee said that the numbers presented were "well below reality" and added that HIV/AIDS is a "real scourge" in some countries, including Libya, Djbouti and Sudan. Some conference attendees said that people in the region do not seek treatment due to the stigma associated with the disease. Dr. Stewart Flavell, coordinator of the nongovernmental group People Living with AIDS, said, "There is an aura of shame that prevails in this region. You cannot fight a disease as long as you deny its existence" (Abboud, Agence France-Presse, 2/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.