November 4, 2011
Experts gathered at the Qatar Symposium on Family, the Millennium Development Goals and AIDS in the Middle East on Thursday in Doha said HIV/AIDS-related discrimination is hindering the region's ability to effectively provide universal access to prevention, treatment, care, and support.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is one of the few worldwide where HIV/AIDS is still on the rise, attendees heard.
"AIDS is an unusual disease that requires an unusual response: a multi-sector approach involving governments, [non-governmental organizations], the medical profession and religious leaders -- there is a need for all members of society to work together," said Samir Anouti, UNICEF's regional HIV/AIDS advisor.
"The centrality of the role of the family is essential in response to the spread of the disease," Anouti said. "This is where we look forward to the outcomes of this symposium."
Dr. Richard G. Wilkins, executive director of the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development, which hosted the symposium, agreed. "In the fight against HIV/AIDS, it is important to uphold family values first and foremost, minimizing behavior that may lead to the spread of this epidemic," he said. "Most importantly, however, victims of HIV should live without fear of discrimination: discrimination from health care provision; discrimination from society; and discrimination from their families."
"As little as 10 years ago, it was difficult to talk openly about the problem of HIV and AIDS in the MENA region," said Hind Khatib, UNAIDS' regional director. "The fact that people living with HIV are at the heart of the AIDS response shows that we have progressed and are moving forward in the right direction in terms of awareness."