Religious, Political Leaders in Arab Countries Call on Region To Address HIV/AIDS
Religious and political leaders from 20 Arab countries on Tuesday at a meeting of the League of Arab States in Cairo, Egypt, called on the region to address HIV/AIDS and stigma associated with the disease, the AP/CBS News reports (Sinan, AP/CBS News, 11/7). More than 300 Muslim and Christian leaders at the meeting said they are concerned about the rising number of HIV cases in the region (Sinan, Independent Online, 11/8)
According to UNAIDS, there were more than 67,000 new HIV cases in the Middle East and North Africa last year, Xinhua/Newstex reports. About 510,000 HIV-positive people live in the region, according to Xinhua/Newstex. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa at the conference said HIV/AIDS could reduce the region's gross domestic product by 35% within the next 25 years (Xinhua/Newstex, 11/7). Khadija Moalla, a U.N. Development Programme specialist for HIV/AIDS in Cairo, said that it is "important" for Arab countries to "break the silence and denial and start moving in the right path by stopping stigma and discrimination." Amat al-Alim al-Soswa, director of UNDP's regional Arab bureau, said, "The epidemic is still new to our countries, but the continual increase in the number of new cases and the weakness of the fundamental developmental structure to prevent HIV sets off the alarm bells for the necessity of quick mobilization." Meanwhile, Catholic and Jewish leaders Tuesday in South Africa ended a four-day meeting on HIV/AIDS by issuing a declaration calling on religious leaders to become more involved in providing education, treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS. The declaration also pledged to provide increased support to sub-Saharan African countries with millions of children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illnesses, the AP/CBS News reports (AP/CBS News, 11/7).