True number 'may be higher'

2,638 cases of HIV/AIDS recorded in Iraq

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi Parliamentary Health and Environment Committee has reported 2,638 HIV/AIDS cases, including 470 deaths in recent years. The committee, led by Majid Sinjari, suggests the actual number may be higher due to the social stigma associated with the disease, deterring many from seeking hospital treatment.

In an interview with Al-Sabah newspaper, Sinjari noted that these figures are part of data monitored up to the beginning of this year in cooperation with relevant authorities. He explained that Human Immunodeficiency Virus, if untreated, can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, which severely weakens the immune system.

Sinjari also mentioned the rare instances of newborns contracting the disease through mother-to-child transmission or blood transfusions, noting no cases have been diagnosed in the past three months. He emphasized that the numbers recorded are consistent with global levels and are relatively low, asserting that early treatment, available at the National Center for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections and its branches, can lead to recovery. Though dangerous if left untreated, modern medicine means that with the right access, patients can lead relatively normal lives with undetectable viral loads.

Highlighting the impact of social stigma, Sinjari reiterated that the actual number of infected individuals likely exceeds reported figures due to underreporting and avoidance of testing facilities.

Addressing misinformation, he refuted exaggerated claims circulating on social media about the spread of the disease among newborns through vaccines.

Dr. Thanaa Al-Zajrawi, also a member of the committee, told Al-Sabah newspaper that the World Health Organization classifies countries with HIV/AIDS prevalence rates below 1% as having a low endemic rate. With only six cases per 100,000 people, Iraq’s rate is considered below average, categorizing it as a very low-endemic country for HIV/AIDS.

This report comes as public health authorities in Iraq continue to combat both the physical and societal challenges posed by HIV/AIDS. Efforts to destigmatize the disease and promote understanding are essential to improving health outcomes for those affected.