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2005-03-14-HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Middle East
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a series of articles published on Sunday and Monday examined how several Middle Eastern countries are confronting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region. Summaries of the articles appear below:
"AIDS fight hurt by Egyptian men's shunning of condoms": Although condoms are "readily" available in many pharmacies in Egypt, most Egyptian men report "rarely" using them, the Post-Gazette reports. According to Maha Aon of the UNAIDS office in Cairo, studies have shown that only 10% of Egyptian youth know about condoms, seven out of 10 men say that they do not have adequate information about condom use and almost 25% of people surveyed believe that condoms can be harmful (Srikameswaran , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/14).
"Egypt's fearful gays shy from HIV testing": Many Egyptian men who have sex with men are "understandably wary" of HIV testing because of a recent "crackdown on homosexuality" in the country, according to the Post-Gazette. Some MSM believe that they could be "identified publicly as gay" if they get tested for HIV, leading to possible imprisonment "regardless of their HIV status," the Post-Gazette reports (Srikameswaran , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/14).
"Refugees see HIV as pass to treatment": For some refugees from "troubled" African nations, such as Sudan, an HIV diagnosis "might not seem all bad" because being HIV-positive "speeds their processing to go to America," according to Baraka Kabaya of Refugee Egypt, the Post-Gazette reports. If accepted by the U.N. refugee office, HIV-positive refugees and their families "stand an excellent chance" of being "quickly resettled" in a western country where they can receive treatment, according to the Post-Gazette. However, an HIV-positive person without refugee status in Egypt might experience "the worst of all worlds" because they cannot receive treatment or other assistance because they technically are illegally residing in Egypt, the Post-Gazette reports (Srikameswaran , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/14).
"Egypt confronting HIV": The Egyptian government has opened the country's first voluntary HIV counseling and testing center as "a tentative step toward acknowledging that Egypt and the rest of the Middle East may not remain safe from AIDS for long and that their conservative culture could make matters worse if HIV begins to spread," the Post-Gazette reports. Egypt and some other Middle Eastern countries have some of the lowest HIV prevalence rates in the world. However, international health experts say that these nations must stop marginalizing high-risk groups such as MSM, commercial sex workers and injection drug users to avoid an HIV epidemic, according to the Post-Gazette (Srikameswaran , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/13).
"Needle-sharing by drug users dangerous sign": The article profiles Dr. Ehab El Kharrat, director of Freedom, a Cairo, Egypt-based Presbyterian organization that treats drug users. According to El Kharrat, about 67% of the drug users he sees are engaging in activities, such as sharing and reusing needles, that put them at risk of contracting HIV. Freedom is working with the Cairo office of Family Health International to raise awareness of HIV among drug users in the city, according to the Post-Gazette. "I'm pretty much scared ... that we're sitting on a ticking bomb," El Kharrat said (Srikameswaran , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/13).
"Iran tackles AIDS head-on": Iran "has been doing some of the most progressive HIV work in the region" and "has astounded the international public health community with its willingness to tackle AIDS," according to the Post-Gazette. The government plans to establish a nationwide network of clinics to diagnose and treat HIV-positive injection drug users and prison inmates. The clinics will provide needle-exchange and methadone treatment services, condoms and antiretroviral drugs at no cost, the Post-Gazette reports. The country currently has more than 150 voluntary HIV counseling and testing centers and more than 600 sites specifically for counseling (Srikameswaran , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/13).