Iraq is considered a country with a low level epidemic of HIV/AIDS, which affects most-at-risk population groups. The prevalence of HIV in Iraq is currently less than 0.1% of the population, but associated vulnerability and risk factors continue to increase as a result of liberalized trade relations and increased drug use. As of December 2014, less than 100 people living with HIV were reported. From 1986 to 2014, a slight increase occurred in officially reported HIV cases, half of which were nationals and half foreigners. The large majority were males, with more than half between 15 and 29 years of age. Of reported cases, 57% were infected by blood transfusion and blood products, though sexual transmission has become the main reported mode of transmission since 2003. There are no reported cases due to injecting drugs, sex work or men having sex with men. The crisis of internally displaced people poses an increased risk of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease transmission.
There is no national strategic plan on HIV and AIDS in place, but a draft plan has been developed and is awaiting final endorsement by the authorities. The current annual plan of the National AIDS Centre includes the following areas of focus: surveillance; prevention of transmission; medical treatment and social care; training of health service staff; health education; research; monitoring and evaluation of the programme; and coordination and partnerships. Diagnosis and treatment are free of charge. Measures to prevent mother-to-child transmission and ensure safe blood transfusion are part of the strategy.
Like many developing countries of the world, Iraq faces greater HIV risks as a result of poverty, low literacy, gender-related discrimination and inadequate knowledge of modes of transmission. There is an underestimation of HIV/AIDS as a major problem for public health. Social stigma prohibits people with risky behaviours from seeking HIV testing or disclosing a positive status. Limited human and financial resources at central and governmental level, limited nongovernmental organization involvement in the programme, out-of-date guidelines, migration to urban centres, sociocultural barriers and weak prevention efforts are also contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The way forward for the national AIDS programme in Iraq is to strengthen health services for internally displaced persons, increase awareness among community regarding HIV/AIDS, strengthen collaboration with other partners in the Ministry of Health, including ministries and nongovernmental organizations involved in the HIV/AIDS programme and build capacities of human resources through training.