SANAA, Yemen, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Yemen's ministry of health registered 121 new cases of AIDS in the past six months amid reports of an increase of HIV carriers in the region.
The president of the National Program for Combating AIDS, Fawziya Gharama, said 48 percent of the registered cases were at an advanced stage of the disease, whereas the remaining cases have not yet shown symptoms.
She said the largest number of cases was found in the capital Sanaa, followed by the provinces of Taaz and Aden.
There is an estimated 20,000 AIDS cases in Yemen, according to the head of the Yemeni Association for the Prevention of AIDS, Taha Abdullah Hajer.
Hajer, also the governor of Omran province north of Sanaa, said only 2,000 cases are officially registered at the ministry of health.
He said most of the cases were discovered by coincidence through regular blood tests and blood donations.
Hajer noted that each discovered case transmits the HIV virus to 37 to 100 people, according to the World Health Organization.
"This would lead to the increase of AIDS cases in Yemen beyond projections and expectations," he warned.
In Saudi Arabia, a health ministry official said 8,919 AIDS cases have been registered and many remain undeclared.
The Saudi Ukaz daily quoted the official as saying that among the registered cases are 2,005 Saudis, while 6,914 are foreigners.
He said 78 percent of the cases contracted the HIV virus through intercourse and the rest through blood transfusions or by infected pregnant women transmitting the virus to their babies.
He added that 87 percent of the case were in the age range of 15 to 49.
Latest press reports said AIDS cases in the Middle East have increased significantly in recent years.