`Time for strategic action on HIV/AIDS in Middle East, North Africa'

Dar es Salaam- Tanzania (PANA) -- Despite much progress on understanding HIV infectious spread globally, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region stands as the only region where knowledge of the epidemic continues to be very limited, inaccessible, and subject to much controversy, a health expert with the World Bank said Monday.
"The MENA region is widely perceived as the anomaly in the HIV/AIDS world map and a real hole in terms of credible data,'' said Akiko Maeda, manager for the Bank's Health, Nutrition and Population Sector.
Maeda was speaking at the launch of a new regional report on HIV/AIDS in the Middle East and North Africa: 'Time for Strategic Action',produced by the World Bank in collaboration with UNAIDS and WHO According to the Bank, the report brings together, for the first time, a comprehensive collection of evidence on HIV epidemic in the MENA region.
The report was launched on the sidelines of a conference organized by the three UN bodies from 28-29 June in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, bringing together over a100 high-level participants, including Ministers of Health and heads of the National AIDS Councils, and representatives of international agencies, the media, the civil society and the private sector /business leaders.
This new report intends to address that dearth of strategic information on HIV spread in MENA and summarises the findings of the largest scientific study on HIV/AIDS in the history of the MENA region, providing the first comprehensive scientific assessment of HIV spread in MENA in the different population groups across the countries of the region.
"We are no longer in the dark in terms of HIV spread in MENA.
After nearly seven years of research, we have at last a comprehensive view of the status of the epidemic in this region and of the populations and countries most affected by this disease," remarked Laith Abu-Raddad, the lead author and principal investigator of the scientific study.
"The roadmap for what needs to be addressed in relation to HIV in MENA is now clear in front of us,'' added Abu-Raddad, a World Bank consultant and assistant professor of Public Health at the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group, the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar.
The evidence gathered in the report indicates that, with the exception of Djibouti, Somalia and Southern Sudan, HIV transmission in the general population of MENA is limited and amongst the lowest worldwide.
However, pockets of HIV transmission exist all over MENA in specific populations.
HIV infections are found among networks and contacts of injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and female sex workers and their clients.
According to the study, in MENA, men practice most of the high-risk behaviours, and the majority of women acquire their infection from their infected spouses.

28 june 2010 08:49:00

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