Large Percentage Of HIV-Positive Women In Arab Countries Contracted Virus From Their Husband

Armen Hareyan's picture

About 80%of HIV-positive women in the Middle Eastcontracted the virus from their husbands, Saeed Al Zenari, United Nations Development Programme regional coordinator for HIV/AIDS programs,said Monday at a conference aimed at encouraging religious leaders to helpincrease prevention efforts in the region, the Gulf News reports. According to Al Zenari, the largepercentage of women who contract the disease from their husbands poses a threatto families in the region.

Al Zenari at the conference said that there is a "wrong perception"in the Middle East that HIV is a "result of adultery," adding thatHIV-positive people therefore are "discriminated" against.HIV-associated stigma and discrimination are widespread in the region, the Newsreports. A religious leader during an open session at the conferencesaid that imans can encourage people to be abstinent before marriage and to"avoid adultery" but added that imans "cannot provideguidelines" on HIV prevention.


The number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the Middle East is between 500,000and one million, but the number of new HIV cases in the region is higher thanin Eastern Europe or North America, Al Zenarisaid. He added that it is difficult to collect data about the disease in theregion. "We have no reliable data available because a majority of thepeople who have the disease either refuse to seek medical care, fearing to bediscriminated, or they are unaware" they are HIV-positive, he said. About90% of HIV-positive people in the region are not aware of their status, AlZenari said.

Between 2002 and 2004, the number of new HIVcases in the region increased by 300%, according to UNAIDS. In2006, 68,000 people in the region were newly diagnosed with HIV, and 36,000died of AIDS-related causes, the News reports (Bibbo, GulfNews, 12/11).

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