The Middle East’s progress towards UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets are well behind the global average. Key populations are not being reached by HIV prevention programmes in the Middle East and Africa region. [1]

In 2014, UNAIDS announced a fast-track strategy to ending the HIV epidemic by 2030. 90-90-90 targets were set and need to be reached by 2020. This consists of 90% of HIV positive people knowing their status, 90% of those living with HIV being on treatment, and 90% of HIV positive people on treatment having undetectable viral loads. [2]

UNAIDS’ report outlines that the fast-track approach will help prevent nearly 28 million new HIV infections and 21 million AIDS-related deaths by 2030. Despite these hopes, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are rising each year in the Middle East. [2]

New HIV infections are largely amongst key populations that face high levels of stigma, discrimination and criminalisation. Data indicates that people living with HIV experience routine discrimination when trying to use healthcare services. More engagement is needed amongst these people to ensure the HIV response in the Middle East gets back on track. [1]

 

Reduce Your Risk of Getting HIV

HIV is spread through the bodily fluids of an HIV positive person. This includes:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Pre-ejaculate
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Rectal fluid
  • Breast milk

You cannot catch HIV through contact such as a handshake, hugging, or close-mouthed kissing. It is also not possible to contract HIV through objects such as toilet seats, doorknobs, or plates used by an HIV positive person. [3]

 

HIV Preventative Measures

There are some measures you can take to protect yourself from HIV, including [3]:

  • Using condoms
  • Getting tested for HIV
  • Getting tested and treated for STIs
  • Less risky sex
  • Reducing the number of sexual partners
  • Not engaging in drug use with needles

If you have any more questions regarding how you can prevent HIV, Better2Know’s expert sexual health advisors are available 24/7 to answer your queries.

 

Treatment as Prevention

If you have tested positive for HIV and receive treatment, it can reduce the viral load within your system to undetectable levels – if treatment is effective. This means the amount of the HIV in your system is so low that the virus will not be detected by an HIV test.

Once your HIV viral load has been undetectable for six months or more, it is no longer possible to pass on the virus during sex. However, you should still take preventative measures. [4]

 

Overcoming HIV Stigma and Discrimination

In the Middle East region, stigma and discriminatory behaviour needs to be overcome. Public discussion of HIV/AIDS needs to be promoted, as well as the encouragement of safe behaviour. [5]

HIV stigma is the negative view or feeling that is directed to those who live with HIV. This not only affects the HIV positive individual, but also their families and people who care for or work with them.

HIV discrimination is the unfair treatment of someone who is living with HIV, or might be HIV positive. This includes people who are associated with a HIV positive person, as well as those who work in the sector that cares for people with HIV.

Discrimination is often due to myths surrounding HIV, particularly how it is transmitted. It is also commonly the result of beliefs regarding certain sexual behaviours, drug use, and the fear of death and illness. [6]

 

References

[1] UNAIDS: Miles to Go – The Response to HIV in the Middle East and North Africa

[2] UNAIDS: UNAIDS reports that reaching Fast-Track Targets will avert nearly 28 million new HIV infections and end the AIDS epidemic as a global health threat by 2030

[3] AIDSinfo: The Basics of HIV Prevention

[4] NHS: Prevention

[5] British Medical Journal: HIV in the Middle East

[6] CDC: Dealing with Stigma and Discrimination

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