It is quite amazing that when the primary issues of health and the priorities of funding in Yemen are discussed, HIV/AIDs is in most cases put last on the list. This has been indicated by the recent happenings where Yemen failed to get more funding on HIV/AIDS in the next round of Global Health Funds which would have been important funding for HIV/AIDS in Yemen.
However, this failure is not on the organizations that are more responsible like the UNDP, but the lack of enough prioritization by the organizations like the Global Health Fund. Because of not focusing on the dangers posed by HIV/AIDS, the government of Yemen and the international partners has been laying bets on the hopes that this situation which is potentially dangerous stays dormant. One can be able to see the reasons that made the Global Health Fund refuse to go on with the funding through a superficial look at statistics cited to show the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Yemen.
The statistics indicated that there were only 318 cases of HIV/AIDS in the year 2009. This is a significant less compared to other countries that are affected by HIV/AIDS. This is a striking number even though it can easily be attributed to fact that this only contributes to the rate of prevalence that is between 2 to 14% of the whole population. Compared to the ever changing statistics of the countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa like the Swaziland’s prevalence rate of 26%, the data in Yemen continually grows pale. It should however be noted that the differences and the low official rates of statistics across different countries should not cause a misdirection in prioritizing Yemen as it is advancing health conditions in the 21st Century.
What the public officials and the donors lack to understand is that behind these statistics lies a very big danger which could lead to extreme problems as Yemen is developing. Currently, Yemen represents conditions that are perfect breeding grounds for exponential growth of HIV/AIDS virus as its citizens have very little information concerning the virus and also the lack of response and surveillance mechanisms and this could worsen the problem.
The low levels of awareness mostly compounded by the lack of surveillance which goes on to limit the real statistics that are actually on the ground about the HIV/AIDS virus in Yemen. Due to the little epidemiological data, the accurate numbers of the HIV are not clearly defined in Yemen. This is the major reason for discrepancies between the cases which are confirmed and the estimated ones.
Lack of data is another reason for the little awareness and the spread of HIV/AIDS in Yemen. This is cause for lack of monitoring at the centers of blood transfusion that are located in the urban areas. This blood transfusion centers may have the guidelines on screening for HIV/AIDS virus but do not do so due to the lack or resource that would enable them to always do so.
Lack of resources results to lack of knowledge and also contributes to the fast spread of the virus as the transfusion of blood itself accounts for 6% of the cases of HIV/AIDS in Yemen. The country does not even have proper data on the major target groups such as the sex workers, drug users and others who are at more risk of being infected by the virus.
The lack of knowledge and awareness on HIV/AIDS virus was evident in the analysis of the confirmed case of the virus in Yemen in the 1990’s. The analysis indicated how fast the HIV/AIDS virus was passed from one person to another despite the conservative culture Yemen. Due to this reason, Yemen and the international community have to be more concerned on how such rapid spreads of the virus plays out with the 24 million people.
Yemen is sitting upon a wobbly fence that is between containing the disease or causing an increase that could go out of control. It is a fact that growth of the HIV/AIDS virus in the country is on the rise considering the in year 2000, 111 new cases were reported while in the year 2009, 318 new cases were documented. This increase of the virus in Yemen is worrying putting in mind that recently, the UNAIDS made announcements that the global health community is slowing down even turning the epidemic around. This report indicated that the global HIV/AIDS infections have gone down by almost 20% in the last 10 years while Yemen is continually witnessing the reversal of this trend.
Information like this should prompt the actions of dealing with the virus. It is a fact that HIV/AIDS virus in Yemen is actually at the starting stages on its spreading patterns and as such, there are unprecedented opportunities to make knowledge to the people as this is the most powerful and the cheapest weapon against the spread of HIV/AIDs.
The government of Yemen has however continued to show tremendous foresight and also high levels of political will to address the issue of HIV/AIDS. In addition, the ministry of health and population in Yemen has created strong relationships with the international partners to make accomplishments that are impressive in the process of dealing with the virus.
Even with the accomplishments, there are many challenges that remain which must be addressed before the fight against the virus can be said to be started in Yemen and one of the largest challenges is the stigma which is associated with the virus. Most people especially in the rural areas Yemen say that awareness of the HIV/AIDS virus will cause promiscuity and people will not accept to acknowledge it. The stigma is not only witnessed in the rural areas. When the HIV/AIDS organizations first started their work in Yemen, some angry people were throwing stones to their building and this shows that reducing the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS cannot take place on its own.
The health infrastructure in Yemen is unequipped and very weak to deal with the issues of HIV/AIDS. In addition, the government of Yemen usually does not match the will it has and the rhetoric of stopping the virus. The government of Yemen, donors and the international organizations has to renew their commitment in the fight against the virus. Proper assessment of the status of HIV/AIDS will help in easy and effective prevention of the spread of the virus. Additionally, there must be a lot of support to the patients suffering from the HIV/AIDS virus through means that are cost effective like training the patients of the disease to console the others.