HIV surveillance systems and research in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have improved markedly over the last decade but nevertheless are challenged by inadequate detection of new infections and under-reporting of known infections.
There are indications, however, that there may be a specific risk of under-detection of HIV among women. Given that sexual behaviour is deeply rooted in gender norms, it is critical to understand how these shape risk behaviour and vulnerability to HIV infection in specific contexts. Until recently, HIV surveillance efforts internationally have not integrated gender considerations into their methods, sampling and tools, and this certainly applies in the MENA region.
Identifying the barriers to HIV case detection among women in the region is critical to improving women’s health, providing them with appropriate access to prevention and treatment services, as well as preventing onward transmission of HIV.