By Kaitlin Junod
Rabat – While HIV and AIDS infections are rising in the Middle East and North Africa, Morocco has made substantial progress in fighting HIV/ AIDS, wrote Navid Mandani for Nature Middle East. According to Mandani, civil society has done an exceptional job in addressing HIV-related risk behaviors and “stands in an excellent position to reverse the course” of rising infections. Nature Middle East estimates that death due to AIDS in the MENA region has increased 176 percent from 2001 to 2010.
As a part of World AIDS Day, held on Tuesday, UNAIDS released the latest statistics on the diseases, reporting an alarming ageing in the AIDS epidemic. In the past three years, the number of people in the world 50 years of age and older living with HIV has risen from 3.6 million to 5.5 million, quickly making it a chronic condition, according to a press release.
“HIV services are still not equipped to address the needs of older people and need to be more integrated in care systems for other chronic diseases,” said Rachel Albone, Health and Care Policy Advisor for HelpAge International in the press release.
However, amid a quickly growing infection rate, there has been some global process in addressing the issue. The number of people having access to life-saving HIV treatment worldwide has doubled to 16 million since 2010, according to UNAIDS.
Part of solving the problem is removing the stigma associated with the diseases, especially in the MENA region wrote Mandani.
“In theory, Muslim and Christian religious tenets condemn the use of illicit drugs and alcohol, and prohibit extra-martial sex,” he said. “The reality is that the major causes of the epidemic in the MENA region are intravenous drug use and prostitution.”
Mandani estimated that despite the progress in Morocco in the availability of HIV test kits and antiretroviral medication, there is a big gap, between known and estimated numbers of people living with HIV, meaning many people go untreated.