Eight out of 10 HIV-positive women in the Arab world contracted the disease from their husbands, a U.N. expert said Monday, adding that the number of cases of women being infected within the marriage bond is alarmingly high.
"There is a wrong perception in our societies that HIV/AIDS infection is a result of adultery and victims are discriminated accordingly," Dr. Saeed Al Zenari, regional coordinator for the AIDS program at the United Nation Development Program told local English-language daily Gulf News.
"On the contrary, figures available with UNAIDS show that 80 per cent of women in the Arab world have been transmitted the disease by their husbands," he said on the sidelines of a workshop on HIV/AIDS prevention.
According to the paper, Zenari said most of the women whose husbands have died of AIDS are rejected by their own families as stigma about AIDS is a major problem in the Arab world.
"A majority of the people who have the disease either refuse to seek medical care, fearing to be discriminated, or they are unaware of carrying the disease, Zenari said, adding that about 90 percent of those infected in the Arab region are not aware that they are carriers.
The expert said the number of the people infected with HIV/AIDS in the Arab region is the lowest in the world, between 500,000 and one million. But he said Arab countries have the highest infection rate if compared to other regions, including North America or Eastern Europe.
According to UNAIDS, the number of new cases detected in the Arab world increased 300 per cent from 2002 to 2004. In 2006, some 68,000 people in the region were newly infected and 36,000 died of AIDS.