The Kurdish Globe
By Sleman Tashan
20 people, mostly foreigners wait for the results of their medical screenings in Erbil Central Laboratory. Tension is in the air, that same day the head of the screening department had announced that three cases of HIV were reported.
Everyone who visits Kurdistan Region is obliged to take blood tests, and those who stay for a prolonged period are required to repeat this test every six months. If test results show that they are +HIV or have Tuberculosis (+TB), the residency office is immediately informed and they will be deported back to their home countries.
Dr. Ibrahim Tahir Maarouf, Head of the HIV and TB unit at the Erbil Health Directorate, argues that if strict procedures are not implemented for controlling these diseases from now on, in 10 years, they will reach an uncontrollable level.
Nine +HIV cases have been reported in Erbil, and the Health Directorate is controlling the health situation of the patients, However, Maarouf says that some of them do not follow the regulations or even carry out their checks on a regular basis.
?One of the cases moved house two years ago and when we call him, he claims that he has had sexual relations with a number of people but refuses to report to us,? says Maarouf in a Globe interview.
HIV, (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), is transferred from one person to another through several channels, sexual intercourse being one of these reported channels.
The spread of prostitution in Kurdistan in recent years, an increasing number of locals traveling abroad as well as bordering with some countries where HIV is widely spread, are among factors threatening the expansion of this disease in Kurdistan.
It is planned that even Kurdish citizens who return after traveling abroad should be tested for this disease on arrival with the exception of high ranking officials.
Awareness is described as the most powerful anti-HIV weapon, and the most efficient way for raising awareness is the media, but the Kurdish media has not yet taken this issue seriously.
Qassim Aziz, director of Healthy Life Organization (HLO), argues that as Kurdistan has recently opened to the outside world, awareness should be given even more importance.
HLO tries to train youths and students, through seminars and training courses to raise awareness of the disease in their friendship circles.
Currently there are 19 HIV cases in Kurdistan. This number was only two between 1986 and 2008, one of whom died abroad in 2007. This means that the disease is expanding fast in the region and needs serious action.
Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Darwesh, Director of Erbil Central Lab recommends that the government address this issue by increasing medical teams to include both psychologists and social researchers.
Darwesh emphasizes that the disease has reached a ?dangerous? stage and the figure is in fact higher than what is officially announced.