25 years since the first case was reported in 1984, Oman observed a rising trend in reported HIV/AIDS cases. Since 1997 there has been a relative stabilization in the number of reported cases. By the end of 2005, a total of 1453 cases were reported, over a third of which have died, the majority of deaths was in the early years.
in the past ten years, the yearly notified cases of HIV/AIDS in Oman has been about 100 new cases each year, which is relatively high for a low prevalence country. There are currently about 1100 people living with HIV/AIDS in Oman; however, since life expectancy is increasing due to available treatment, it is expected that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS will rise.
Young people are the most affected with nearly half the cases being between the ages of 20 – 35; and another 12.4% under the age of 20 years. Sexual transmission is the most common mode of transmission; however, injecting drug use is also of concern. (Ministry of Health HIV Notified Cases Database)
Young people, as they emerge into adulthood, feel invincible as they begin their adult life. Youth is a time of growth and a time for experimentation. Young people in Oman, like young people everywhere, engage in risky behaviour affecting their health, such as smoking (20.1% ever smoked), alcohol (6.6% of males), experimentation in illicit drug intake (7.2% of males) and other dangerous practices (Adolescent Survey, 2001).
In an environment where young people have to face emerging social expectations of adulthood, they are becoming increasingly vulnerable to diverse health problems including HIV. In addition, individuals who may not be practicing risky behaviour are still vulnerable because of the risky behaviour(s) of their sexual partners.
In Oman, the level of awareness regarding HIV prevention in the young population is a concern. A large majority of students in secondary school had heard of the disease of AIDS (98%) and a more than 90% knew the main modes of transmission. However, there were numerous misconceptions among adolescents on transmission of HIV such as kissing (60%) and sharing eating utensils (59%) (Adolescent KAP Survey, 2001).
HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination is often triggered by a lack of understanding of the disease and myths about how it is transmitted. There are people who do not know if they are HIV positive and are afraid to be tested because of the stigma attached to HIV and the possibility of being rejected by their families and community.