Rates of HIV infection in the Middle East and North Africa region, though low, are increasing:

     • In 2009, there were 460,000 persons living with HIV, compared to 180,000 in 2001.

     • Infections among children aged 0-14 were estimated at 21,000 in 2009, compared to 7,100 in 2001.

     • Of 75,000 new infections recorded in 2009, 6,400 were among children (0-14), up from 4,600 in 2008.

In most countries of the region, HIV is mostly concentrated among certain communities, in particular populations at high risk including men having sex with men, injecting drug users and commercial sex workers.

This pattern is different in Djibouti where there is a more generalized epidemic. According to 2009 estimates, some 14,000 adults and children are living with HIV there, the equivalent of 1.6 per cent of the population.

While culture and tradition in the region have helped keep the spread of HIV under control, it is crucial to respond to the socioeconomic changes that the region is going through. Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 represent one fifth of the population. They are shaped by shifting family structures, extensive mobility, high unemployment, emergency or conflict situations, modernization, urbanization and exposure to different cultures.

The age of marriage has also risen, while at the same time HIV risk behaviours appear to be on the rise in some youth populations.

Another worrisome trend is the increase of HIV infection rates among women, which increases the chances of mother-to-child HIV transmission if no appropriate treatment is given. 

In Djibouti, for example, only an estimated 10 per cent of HIV-positive pregnant women receive anti-retrovirals to prevent the transmission of the virus to their babies. Across the region, this rates goes down to 3 per cent for an estimated population of 16,400 HIV-positive pregnant women.

UNICEF has identified four priority areas for its work in HIV prevention:

     • Providing children born with HIV with treatment
     • Preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies
     • Preventing transmission among young people
     • Protecting and supporting children affected by HIV and AIDS.



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