HIV in the Middle East and North Africa — Behind a Veil?

Brain scientists say we can really only think about one thing at a time.

And when it comes to AIDS, I think it’s fair to say we tend to think of Sub-Saharan Africa as the place where the HIV pandemic continues to spread. As this report from NPR’s Linda Thrasybule illustrates, such simplistic thinking is both incorrect and dangerous.

By Linda Thrasybule

HIV epidemics are emerging among men who have sex with men in the Middle East and North Africa, researchers say. It’s a region where HIV/AIDS isn’t well understood, or studied.

More than 5 percent of men who have sex with men are infected by HIV in countries including Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, according to a recent study in PLoS Medicine. In one group of men in Pakistan, the rate of infection was about 28 percent. (For reference, in 2008, rates of HIV infection among men who have sex with men in the U.S. ranged from 16 percent among white men up to 28 percent of black men, according to the CDC.)

Risky behavior, low condom use, injectable drug use and male sex workers are some of the factors that could cause HIV rates to rise in the region, the researchers say. On average, the men who have sex with men group had between four and 14 sexual partners within the past six months, with consistent condom use falling below 25 percent.

Lack of HIV surveillance and low access to treatment and prevention are a concern for researchers, who believe the window of opportunity to prevent the epidemic from spreading across the region is growing smaller.

Read more here at NPR’s Shots blog

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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.