By Merve Berker
ANKARA (AA) – Nearly 11,000 people in Yemen live with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a report released Sunday.
Sharing a Yemeni man’s story about finding out that he was HIV positive, the UN agency said HIV “is no longer a death sentence,” but only if the right drugs are available.
“Advances in antiretroviral therapy (ART) mean that people infected with the virus can live longer, healthier lives. In fact, once the viral load becomes undetectable in a person as a result of treatment, it is no longer possible for them to transmit the virus to others,” said the report.
The report discussed ART sites, or health facilities that provide care services and medicine to people living with HIV.
“This includes preventive, diagnostic, awareness and nutritional advice, as well as curative and counseling services,” it said.
“Up until 2007, individuals living with HIV could not receive proper health care, but with the ART site and the intensive health care it provides, patients feel relieved and safe. Once people living with HIV take their medication regularly, they can lead a normal life,” said Dr. Nasser Qassem Sami, the head of the Aden ART site.
“However, in countries in acute crises, medication and health care can be hard to come by. This is the case in Yemen, which is entering its seventh year of conflict and crisis,” the report said.
It said only 50% of the health facilities in Yemen are fully functional, and with medical supplies scarce, an estimated 11,000 people living with HIV in the country struggle to survive.
“When the conflict broke out in Yemen, most of the ART site’s furniture and equipment were damaged, resulting in a near shutdown of services for over three years,” it said.
“Responding to an urgent need to restore the site, the International Organization for Migration supported the National AIDS Control Program (NACP) in Aden. Through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s Middle East Response Project, IOM was able to help rehabilitate the site.
“Rehabilitation included providing the site with furniture, air conditioners, and information and communication technology (ICT) equipment,” it said.
The report added that by the end of 2020, nearly 3,000 people with HIV were registered at ART sites in Aden, Ta'iz, Hadramawt, Sana’a and Al Hodeidah governorates while more than 360, or almost 20%, receive attention at the Aden site.
Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sana’a. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.
According to UN estimates, the conflict in Yemen has so far claimed the lives of at least 233,000 people, with millions more facing starvation and in need of humanitarian assistance.