Social Stigma Complicating HIV/AIDS Awareness, Prevention Efforts in Saudi Arabia
Social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS is complicating HIV awareness and prevention efforts in Saudi Arabia, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports (Abu-Nasr, AP/Houston Chronicle, 11/27). The country's Ministry of Health in June announced that more than 10,000 people were HIV-positive, although some physicians say the real number is much higher. About 7,800 HIV/AIDS cases were reported in 2004, and 6,700 cases were reported in 2003. Although the government recently has begun to address the spread of the virus, HIV prevention efforts often do not include discussions of condoms or safer-sex practices but instead focus on abstinence and the "fear of God" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/8). According to the AP/Chronicle, people often link the disease to premarital sex, adultery and sex among men who have sex with men -- which are "acts forbidden by their religion and sometimes punishable by death." According to HIV/AIDS advocates, many people residing in the country, mostly men, do have premarital sex and extramarital affairs -- especially on trips to other countries. Health Ministry statistics say 78% of HIV/AIDS cases in the country are a result of sexual contact (AP/Houston Chronicle, 11/27).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.