Although regular reports on regional statistics in South Kurdistan are almost non-existent, there are reports which claim that the number of people infected with HIV have increased from 2 to 107 in the past few years. There are also reports which claim that infectious diseases have increased by 5000 precent. Whether these figures are accurate is a question that we cannot answer until a bureau of statistics is established in South Kurdistan where data is collected and analysed in a scientific manner. Until then we can only go by the government’s press releases and on ground accounts of the situation in the region.

The figures and suggestions on the situation surrounding the spread of HIV infection are quite alarming. The Ministry of Health in Kurdistan seems to think that the increase and accounts of HIV infections in South Kurdistan in the last few years is due to people entering the region from abroad. This may have been the case initially but now that the disease has entered the region and is being spread among citizens means that measures need to be taken within the country to stop the disease from spreading any further. Instead the government has taken the initiative to put in place a policy which prevents HIV infected visitors into the country. Any individual who leaves the region for more than 90 days will also need to undergo blood tests upon their return. Official diplomatic delegations and anyone with medical records are not required to be tested, neither are those on religious pilgrimages, men over 60 or women over 55.

Although this policy has its limitations, it does prevent further introduction of the HIV virus into the region, however does not do anything for those already in the region whether they have already been infected or not. So, why should the spread of this particular disease be taken seriously and with great caution? Because of it is not taken under control it could cause a region wide epidemic that could mean that South Kurdistan will become the next Africa in the global AIDS epidemic and here is why:

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and the virus works by gradually destroying the human body’s immune system, leaving the infected person mortally susceptible to diseases they would normally be able to fight. HIV can only be passed on through infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk. It is mainly transmitted through vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom or by sharing a needle or syringe with someone who is living with HIV. Consequently, if an increase in the disease is not tended to quickly it can spread like wildfire. Africa has been the center of focus for global HIV epidemic for decades because once the disease spreads across a majority of a region it is hard to control.

Although the HIV virus is treatable it is not yet curable. Thus the best treatment is prevention. The most effective prevention of HIV is the education of the ways in which HIV is spread, the most common being sexual intercourse. International experts warn that unless such topics are discussed honestly and openly in public, they can risk an epidemic in the South Kurdistan region. Indeed a very taboo subject in most of the Middle East Sex education for the community is vital in providing the region to tackle such potential epidemics, not just for HIV but other dangerous sexual transmitted diseases.

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