Wednesday, February 4, 2009

UN study estimates 35,000 people contracted HIV in Middle East, North Africa in 2007

4 February 2009 – With a new assessment showing some 35,000 new cases of HIV and some 25,000 AIDS-related deaths across North Africa and the Middle East in 2007, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) today stressed the importance of national monitoring of the epidemic and its response.

“Having insights into the strengths of their national responses helps country partners identify opportunities for improved coordination,” Renu Chahil-Graf, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a news release of the results of the assessment of the National AIDS Coordinating Authorities (NACA) in 16 countries.

“Equipped with this information, countries are better informed to make decisions leading to the shared goal of universal access to HIV treatment, prevention, care and support services for those in need,” Dr. Chahil-Graf added.

The assessment looked at institutional structures, governance, relationships between coordinating bodies, capacity strengthening, harmonization and alignment and operational challenges.

The review was then used as the basis of the first regional meeting on national AIDS coordination in collaboration with Oman last month in Muscat, which brought together officials of AIDS programmes with Ministers of Health, Youth, Sports and Social Services, encouraging cross-sectoral approaches to responses to the disease, UNAIDS said.

Officials from Oman, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen took part in the three-day meeting.

Representatives of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria also attended.

Countries in the Middle East and North African Region (MENA), which has a total of 380,000 people living with HIV, received approximately $431 million from the Global Fund over the last four years, UNAIDS said.