HIV Surveillance and Epidemic Profile in the Middle East and North Africa

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Social Research Center (SRC)

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Sherine Shawky, Cherif Soliman, Kassem M. Kassak,Doaa Oraby, Danielle El-Khoury, Inoussa Kabore,

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes

Publication Date

Spring 5-18-2012



HIV infection is the most devastating infection that has emerged in the recent history. The risk of being infected can be associated with both individual’s knowledge and behavior and community vulnerability influenced by cultural norms, laws, politics, and social practices. Despite that the countries in the Middle East and North Africa have succeeded in keeping low the HIV epidemic rates, the number of identified infected cases are increasing. Since the appearance of the first AIDS cases, all the national authorities devoted their efforts to abort the epidemic in its early stages. The rate of new HIV infections across the Middle East and North Africa region are not at an alarming level, but the need for a concerted effort from nation-states and nongovernmental organizations to stem the spread of the virus across the region is vital. Most countries of the region have put in place better information systems to track the HIV epidemic, yet the passive HIV/AIDS reporting remains the cornerstone in the HIV surveillance systems. Several countries still believe that their current strategies are optimal to the HIV status within their territories and that their national strategies are appropriate to their low epidemic status that is not expected to grow. Additionally, these countries fear that establishing an HIV national program to survey risk behaviors may be perceived as an approval of these behaviors that are culturally and religiously unacceptable. This background article aims to summarize the HIV surveillance strategies and epidemic profile in 17 Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The article, also, displays the national surveillance system and the epidemic profile in Egypt and Lebanon as models for the region. This information aims to provide useful insights that may help the national authorities in finding out the best surveillance strategies that allow merging and collecting biological and risk data which is an integral part of their efforts to fight the HIV epidemic in the region.

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