The Sultanate has been ranked one of the top ten countries in the world with the least number of HIV/Aids cases among adults. According to the latest 2017 UNAIDS statistics, covering 160 countries, the prevalence of HIV cases in the Sultanate is found to be 0.1 per cent. “This demonstrates the enormous gains the country has made in fighting the deadly epidemic,” the global agency said in its report.
According to the report, countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have the lowest rates of HIV occurrence among adults.
“The decline in new HIV infections among adults have slowed in recent years, with the estimated annual number of new infections among adults remaining nearly static,” UNAIDS said in the report.
The low HIV prevalence among the general population in MENA is thought to be due to religious and cultural values, which discourage pre-marital sex, encourage married people to be faithful, and emphasise universal male circumcision, the report adds.
However, this is in contrast to sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest HIV prevalence rate among all regions with 7.1 per cent.
Adolescent girls and young women aged between 15 and 24 years are at particularly high risk of HIV infection, accounting for 20 per cent of new HIV infections among adults globally in 2015, despite accounting for just 11 per cent of the adult population in this region.
“In geographical areas with higher HIV prevalence, gender imbalance is more pronounced. In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women account for 25 per cent of new HIV infections among adults, and women account for 56 per cent of new HIV infections among adults,” points out the report.
Harmful gender norms and inequalities, insufficient access to education and sexual and reproductive health services, poverty, food insecurity and violence, are at the root of the increased HIV risk of young women and adolescent girls.
Despite the low number of cases involving surviving patients, Oman has demonstrated a commitment to the prevention of the disease and has succeeded in exerting maximum control on HIV transmission via blood and blood products in healthcare settings.
In the past four years, Oman has established a strong programme to eliminate HIV transmission from mothers to their children, offering HIV testing to all pregnant women with an acceptance rate of 99 per cent and with almost universal antenatal care.