Background: More than 60 million persons have been infected since AIDS was described in 1981. By the end of 2003, an estimated 40 million individuals were living with HIV globally. The surveillance of HIV/AIDS still faces challenges in Saudi Arabia. This study describes the pattern and characteristics of HIV/AIDS cases in Saudi Arabia.
Methods: This descriptive analytic study describes the reported HIV/AIDS data for all notifiable cases during the period 1984 to 2003 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Case definitions based on ELISA and Western Blot tests were used. Age, sex and regional distribution were studied in addition to survival rates.
Results: As of 2003, 1743 Saudi nationals and 6064 non-Saudi HIV cases were reported. Among Saudis, 872 were AIDS cases. Males accounted for 1329 HIV infections, comprising 77%, with a male-to-female ratio of about 3:1. Adults 15-49 years constituted 78% of cases, including 46% of cases infected through sexual activity, while 33% of reported HIV seropositive cases had already died. Most cases (67%) were registered in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. Infection through blood transfusion declined with no reported cases since 2001.
Conclusion: The number of reported HIV infections in KSA has increased in the last few years. Using the coverage rate estimating method, the number of Saudi HIV infections since the emergence of the epidemic was estimated to be 2640 cases as of the beginning of the year 2004. The estimated number of HIV infections is almost one and one-half times the reported number, indicating that a problem of underreporting of HIV/AIDS cases still exists.