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New UN project to help Arab countries break silence on HIV/AIDS

New UN project to help Arab countries break silence on HIV/AIDS

With HIV/AIDS infections on the rise in Arab countries, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today announced plans to work with 17 governments in the region to break the silence surrounding the epidemic.

A half million adults and children in the Arab world are living with HIV/AIDS, with 80,000 people infected there last year, according to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Sexual intercourse is apparently the main mode of transmission in most countries, with significant increases in HIV infection among injecting drug users also reported. In Djibouti and Sudan, political instability, socio-economic disparities, and large-scale population mobility have led to widespread epidemics.

"While the Arab region is generally regarded as a low-prevalence region, this is no reason for complacency," said Zahir Jamal of UNDP's Regional Bureau for Arab States. "The region must ensure that an appropriate level of response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic is in place," he cautioned.

The new initiative aims to create a regional network of civil society organizations, empower the media to address HIV/AIDS concerns, and explore the impact of immigration on the spread of the epidemic, according to UNDP.