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Newark Star-Ledger Examines Challenges for Iraq's HIV-Positive People

November 1, 2005

The Newark Star-Ledger on Monday examined how HIV-positive people living in Iraq -- where the population is "consumed with survival and rebuilding their lives" -- are "perhaps the loneliest and most unfortunate minority ... trapped in a society that can do little to help them or understand their situation." The Iraqi government does not have access to all of the medications that are used to treat HIV/AIDS, and health care workers say that most of the estimated 72 HIV-positive people living in the country are forced to "conceal their illness to nearly everyone," the Star-Ledger reports. According to the AIDS Research Center in Baghdad, the country has identified 448 HIV cases since 1987, including 21 new cases since 2003. Physicians say the first HIV cases were traced to tainted blood that was imported from the French pharmaceutical company Merieux in 1986. The government so far has unsuccessfully tried to sue Merieux, formerly known as Aventis Pasteur. Some physicians say that the primary route of HIV transmission in the country has shifted from blood transfusions to sexual intercourse, "a topic not openly discussed in Iraq," the Star-Ledger reports. Wisan Shaker, a doctor at the HIV/AIDS unit of the Infectious Disease Control Center in Baghdad, said the health ministry is providing awareness programs in schools, but a UNICEF survey released earlier this year found that about 70% of young people in the country had never heard of HIV or AIDS and that 55% were not interested in learning more about the disease (Palmer, Newark Star-Ledger, 10/31).

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