Low funds, low cooperation derail AIDS eradication efforts in Yemen
Over the course of the past decade, many international meetings have been held in the U.N. General Assembly to discuss ways to curb the disease’s spread. The last meeting was in June 2011 and included high-ranking officials representing numerous countries.
U.N. members pledged to provide treatment for 15 million AIDS cases worldwide. They also pledged to provide assistance to children affected by the virus in addition to 50 percent of drug addicts.
The nations, including Yemen, also pledged not to stigmatize those with the disease.
Lack of awareness
Yemen has been categorized as having a lower than average number of cases.
The first case in Yemen was diagnosed in 1987. Since then, the disease has spread, with more than 3,000 AIDS cases recently reported, according to the National Program for Combating AIDS.
Yemen’s primary obstacle to combating the virus is a lack of awareness of the disease’s causes. Moreover, Yemenis often stigmatize and isolate AIDS patients.
Fawzia Gharama, a U.N. AIDS programs coordinator, said a problem with the government is that it only relies on the health ministry to combat the problem. However, she went on to say that the information, endowment and the education ministries should shoulder the responsibility, too.
Gharama said the health ministry cannot stop the spread of the disease alone. The private sector and civil society organizations should also take part in fighting growth, he said.
For his part, Dr. Abdulhameed Al-Suhaibi, the AIDS national control program director in Yemen, said there is a funding shortage because the country has so few AIDS cases. Foreign support is given to countries ranking the highest in cases, he said.
Al-Suhaibi said it is not enough to depend on donor countries to combat the disease; the Yemeni government should be the primary funder.
The lack of awareness about the disease is a major problem among Yemenis. Many people in Yemen do not know the primary causes of the virus and how to treat symptoms if infected.
They also are often unaware of how it transfers from person to person.
A university student at the Education College, in the Khawlan district of Sana’a, said he did not know anything about the virus except that he said its transmission is often due to illegal sexual relationships.
Amen Al-Sahmi, a university student in Sana’a, disapproves of spending time AIDS patients, saying anyone suffering from AIDS is looked down upon.
The absence of cooperation
As of now, there haven’t been any serious efforts from the ministries of communication, information or endowment to combat the disease.
Sadiq Al-Nabhani, manager of public affairs at the Ministry of Human Rights, said the health ministry has been deemed the first to be accountable for the disease’s spread. However, all government sectors, civil and private sector organizations ought to help stem the spread of AIDS, he said.
Dr. Al-Suhaibi said ministries could play a major role in combating the disease. For example, the communication ministry could add warning statements on charge cards about AIDS hazards.
The Ministry of Endowment could educate mosque teachers on how to disseminate information about the disease. Media outlets could add to the effort as well.
Al-Suhiabi concluded that if a collective effort was made, AIDS could be eradicated from the country.