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Mideast HIV Cases Reach a High Rate

The 19th Gathering of the Directors of National AIDS Programs held on Saturday in Beirut revealed the number of positive people in the reached about 461,000 by the end of 2008.

The WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean Hussein Abdel-Razzaq presented statistics about the spread of the illness, saying about 461,000 HIV positive people were counted in the Middle East by the end of 2008. He added that about 60,600 people were diagnosed with the virus the same year.

Abdel-Razzaq, however, noted that it was difficult to determine exactly how many people suffered from the disease because many were infected through “illegal practices” such as drug use, prostitution and homosexuality. “There are still many gaps in the information concerning the groups most at risk in the region,” he said.

Abdel-Razzaq went on to stress the need to evaluate AIDS prevention and care services provided by the programs in order to guarantee that they were being provided to those in need, especially that were still discriminated against and stigmatized.

He also emphasized the progress made by the WHO, health ministries, the UN AIDS program and other organizations in reducing the cost of medications. “I praise the work of the National AIDS Program in Lebanon, which is an example of collaboration with civil society and nongovernmental sectors,” he added, noting that Lebanon aimed at raising awareness and providing examinations for social groups most at risk of infection.

Khalifeh then called for pursuing efforts to provide “full care for AIDS patients” and for encouraging civil society to lend a hand in combating the deadly disease.

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