Summary: This document presents the rationale for addressing HIV/AIDS in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region (including Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen), and the Bank's strategic choices in supporting countries to prevent the spread of the disease. As one of the shocks that can drive households into abject poverty, HIV/AIDS has the potential to impede, and even reverse, development if not addressed early enough. Prevalence levels in the MENA region are low, compared to other areas, but recent evidence indicates that infection rates are increasing. Greater investments to improve HIV/AIDS advocacy, develop an information base, and implement prevention strategies among high-risk groups are needed, before prevalence levels reach epidemic proportions. Through investments in these areas, the region can avoid the increase in human suffering a widespread epidemic could bring, and preserve the benefits of national and regional development investments put in place by governments, and development partners. This regional strategy clarifies the role of the Bank in confronting the epidemic, based on a review of regional and national needs, and responses to those needs, as well as the areas in which the Bank is best positioned to support countries' efforts.
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