6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Where are we?

Raising awareness about HIV/AIDS in the occupied Palestinian territories

Gains on reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) have been made to varying degrees within the Arab states. Though the prevalence of HIV/AIDS continues to be relatively low in Arab countries, risks and vulnerability are high as the epidemic is on the rise. The majority of reported cases in the region involve unprotected sexual contact among young adults; however there is increasing evidence of epidemics amongst injecting drug users (IDU) and their sexual partners.

Furthermore, the HIV epidemic in the region is not homogenous. Despite overall low HIV prevalence, the trend since the early 2000s shows increased infections across some countries, particularly amongst specific population groups and locations. In 2006 68,000 people were newly infected with the disease and due to limited access to medical care and treatment, 36,000 adults and children died. Most of the cases reported in Arab countries have been shown to be amongst the male population.

Access to antiretroviral treatment (ART) is only available for a fraction of the people living with HIV. The promotion of condoms is not acceptable in every country in the Arab region and only a few countries have officially reported to UNAIDS or WHO on use of condom at last high-risk sex. Studies conducted in the region indicate relatively low use of condoms in high-risk sexual intercourse particularly amongst youth, sex workers, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users.

Malaria has been successfully eliminated in the majority of LAS but it does still remain endemic in four LDC countries: Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen (together with a limited geographic area in Iraq and Saudi Arabia at the border with Yemen). Tuberculosis (TB) is considered to be the leading cause of communicable deaths in the Arab world, especially in the LDC sub-region. Good progress has been made, however, through the internationally recommended Directly Observed Treatment Short course (DOTS) strategy for TB control and both prevalence and incidence levels have decreased since 1990.

A steady decline through the early 2000s saw a decrease in the rate to 35.8 per 100,000 persons by 2007. Since 1990, this signifies an overall drop of 24 per cent in the LAS tuberculosis incidence rate. In the LDC sub-region, Djibouti, Mauritania and the Sudan have witnessed increases in incidence of 40 per cent since 1990 and therefore remain the LAS’s biggest challenge concerning TB reduction. HIV has supported the incidence and spread of TB, which today is the most common cause of death of AIDS patients.

UNDP's work in the Arab States


Estimation of number of people living with HIV in Arab countries and demonstration of countries based on various stages of the epidemic

Source: UNAIDS/WHO (2009)

Targets for MDG6
  1. Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
    • HIV prevalence among population aged 15-24 years
    • Condom use at last high-risk sex
    • Proportion of population aged 15-24 years with comprehensive correct knowledge of HIV/AIDS
    • Ratio of school attendance of orphans to school attendance of non-orphans aged 10-14 years
  2. Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it
    • Proportion of population with advanced HIV infection with access to antiretroviral drugs