TUNIS: A sharp rise in new HIV infections in the Middle East and North Africa is a worrying trend, despite some positive developments, UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibe said yesterday.
While the epidemic remains very “concentrated” within the region, with homosexuals, sex workers, migrants and drug addicts comprising the vast majority of cases, the Arab world has seen a dramatic increase in new cases in recent years. This compares with a fall in global infection rates of 35 percent. “There are regions we are worried about, notably the Middle East and North Africa, where a relatively quick rise in the number of new infections has been observed. The virus in these regions is difficult to contain,” Sidibe said.
With 225,000 people infected and 22,000 new cases in 2013, “the epidemic is not huge, but what is worrying is above all the trend... In just a few years we’ve gone from 10,000 people infected to 225,000,” he added, speaking on the sidelines of a regional HIV/AIDS conference.
Equally, access to treatment across the region is very poor, with Sidibe comparing medical coverage in the Middle East, of just 18 percent, to around 80 percent in certain African countries ravaged by the disease. In the Middle East, only “11 percent of children with AIDS have access to treatment”, he said.AFP