Population Trends Could Have Adverse Effects on HIV Rates

Armen Hareyan's picture
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HIV in the Middle East and North Africa: a review of the evidence

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A review of research on the prevalence of HIV in the Middle East and North Africa has found that whilst cultural and religious practices may be behind a low prevalence of HIV in the region, they could potentially contribute to increasing the spread of HIV.

Research from the World Health Organisation, published in this week's BMJ, argues it is possible that some practices which are common among Muslim populations may contribute to decreasing the risk of HIV transmission. One is low alcohol consumption, which reduces 'risky' behaviours and another is potentially male circumcision which was shown in a recent clinical trial to have a protective effect but application of these results to other epidemiological, cultural and social settings still needs to be confirmed.

At the same time other population trends, beliefs and practices in the region may have an adverse effect. Most countries in the region have young populations with a rapidly increasing age at marriage, but young people may be ill-equipped to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections. Traditional Muslim approaches have tended to be very conservative, and it is difficult to break the silence around issues of sexual behaviour

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