AIDS and its spread in the Republic of Yemen [Archives:2003/678/Health]

October 20 2003

By Akram Ali Al-Hindi
& Khadijah Al Sarahi
For the Yemen Times

AIDS and Sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) are globally recognized as a major public health problem. Besides a significant cause of ill health, STDs have also been shown to increase substantially the risks of sexual transmission of HIV.
Regular reporting says that 150 000 infections occur per year. There is no integration of HIV/AIDS activities in health related programmes to enable better utilization of existing human and financial resources.
In the republic of Yemen and according to the Ministry of Public Health and Population, HIV/AIDS cases increased from one in 1990 to 60 in 1996 and the total accumulative number went up to 870 by the year 2001. A sevenfold increase of HIV positive cases among blood donors from 1998 to 2000 has been observed and estimates of safe screening of all transfused blood have been said to range from 50 % to 80%.
The findings of a 2001 HIV/AIDS situation analysis and need assessment conducted in Sana’a city show that the reported number of HIV positive cases among health care providers and patients is still low.
Findings reveal the potential for a spread of HIV infection through health care setting due to the lack of infection control. The poor condition of hospital waste management for instance is a serious predisposing factor for rapid spread of blood-borne infections among health care providers as well as in the community.
Experiences from other countries show that the control of the spread of the virus is contingent upon successful control among high risk and vulnerable groups in countries with current low prevalence; however, so far, very little is known about HIV/IDS/STD vulnerability and the true prevalence of risk behaviour and its determinants in Yemen.

The attitude of the Government and Non-governmental organization regarding AIDS/STD
In the government’s 2nd five- year development plan 2001- 2005 (control of STDs including AIDS) was mentioned as one of the programs under the ministry of health sector plan. The updated National Population Policy of the Republic of Yemen and the population action program 2001 – 2005 explicitly addressed the issue of STDs and the importance of the prevention and curative measure for these diseases as appropriate.
Governmental and non-governmental organizations have initiated activities mostly with the support from the multilateral organizations, in particular from World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA and with limited support from bilateral organizations and international NGOs.
The main activities were in the area of awareness raising, training of health workers and condom distribution and research. Awareness raising activities included production and distribution of printed materials, travelling drama theatre group, production of booklets, lectures and seminars and HIV/ AIDS health education campaign targeting high school students and higher education institutions.
The national strategy of the government also coincides with the general strategy of HIV/ AIDS Regional Committee for Mediterranean countries, held in Riyadh in Oct. 2001 and other related international conventions.

The true extent of HIV/AIDS and STDs spread in the country is not known, as no studies to reliably determine prevalence or to examine vulnerability and risk behaviour have taken place; however, there has been seven-fold increase in the HIV positive rate among blood donors between 1998 and 2001.
STDs data is not captured in the National Health Information System, but reproductive health care providers in the large cities report significant prevalence of STDs using the syndromic method.
The Yemeni motto to treat the issue of the spread of AIDS in Yemen is that (Yes for the protection from AIDS & NO for the discrimination against its patients).
And for the young and adults be careful of this catastrophic disease and always remember that Islam has prevented us from this disease by marriage, which is the only right way of having sexual intercourse.
(References; – National strategic framework for the control and prevention of HIV/AIDS in the Republic of Yemen)