Challenges in the Arab States

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Raising awareness on HIV/AIDS in the occupied Palestinian Territory

Nearly three decades into the AIDS epidemic, the number of new HIV infections has yet to decline. Over 34 million people around the world are living with HIV and AIDS — half of them women. The epidemic has cost more than 1.8 million lives in 2010, and in 2011 over 1.7 million people died of AIDS-related causes.

The AIDS epidemic has swiftly escalated from a public health challenge into an unparalleled development crisis.

AIDS has reversed valuable development gains, and resulted in illness and death among the most productive age group of societies. The long-term human development impact is felt in all sectors of public and private life. Action on a much larger scale is needed to address this rapidly-expanding epidemic, not only to support the hardest-hit nations, but also to curtail the explosive spread in parts of the world where it is now expanding.

In 2010, an estimated 2.7 million people were newly infected with HIV, 13% fewer than the 3.1 million people newly infected in 2001. HIV incidence has fallen in more than 30 countries since 2001.

In the Middle East and North Africa region, the HIV epidemic has been on the rise since 2001. Although the overall HIV prevalence in the region is still low, the rise in new infections has put MENA among the top two regions in the world with the fastest growing HIV epidemic.

According to UNAIDS, the number of new HIV infections in the Middle East and North Africa increased from 36 000 in 2001 to 75 000 in 2009 bringing the number of people living with HIV in the region to an estimated 460 000 at the end of 2009.

Epidemics in the region are typically concentrated among injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and sex workers and their clients.

The expected economic costs of the epidemic in the region are projected at 45% of current GDP over the next 25 years in nine Arab countries, unless urgent action is taken immediately to reverse such a scenario.

How we address these challenges

In the Arab States, UNDP focuses on supporting the creation of an enabling environment to prevent the spread of HIV on one hand, and to support the empowerment of People Living with HIV (PLWH) on the other hand. The current areas of interventions (both at regional and national) are as follows:

  • Establishment of income-generating projects by/for PLWH – including soft skills training, vocational trainings, micro-credit, and establishment of SMEs. 
  • Capacity building of NGOs on HIV Outreach to Most vulnerable Populations.
  • Working towards the endorsement of the HIV Arab Convention on PLWH and the rights of PLWH.
  • Production of documentaries on YouTube on the personal stories of PLWH setting up successful and empowering income-generating projects.   
  • Capacity building of legal professionals on the provision of legal services to PLWH and most vulnerable populations. 
  • Supporting the organization of training workshops for leaders to reduce HIV-related stigma – mainly through trainings of Muslim and Christian male and female Religious Leaders, as well as Media professionals.     
  • Awareness raising and advocacy efforts to promote TRIPs flexibilities at national level in order to foster access to HIV treatment. 

Facts & figures

  • Reliable data on HIV epidemics in the Middle East and North Africa remain in short supply, making it difficult to track trends with confidence.
  • According to available evidence, an estimated 460 000 people were living with HIV in the Middle East and North Africa at the end of 2009, up from 180 000 in 2001.
  • The number of new HIV infections in the region increased from 36000 in 2001 to 75000 in 2009.
  • AIDS-related deaths in the region rose from 8300 in 2001 to 23000 in 2009.
  • In Djibouti and southern Sudan, HIV prevalence among pregnant women using antenatal services exceeds 1%. HIV prevalence in other countries across the region remains low.
  • In Egypt, an estimated 6% of men who have sex with men are living with HIV. Surveys in Sudan have found that between 8% and 9% of this population is HIV-positive.
  • In 2006, about 1% of female sex workers in Egypt were living with HIV, compared to an estimated 2%–4% in Algeria, Morocco and Yemen.

Income Generation Activities for Women Living with HIV/AIDS




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