Myth-Busting Jordanian Doctor Preps Refugees for Resettlement

Jordan HIV

Dr. Ammar Burqan, a physician who works for Caritas Jordan, helps refugees understand the risks and realities of HIV and AIDS. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS

Jordan has a very low rate of HIV and AIDS. CRS partner Caritas Jordan uses education to help keep that rate low: teaching people about HIV in case some migrate to areas where it is more widespread.

Caritas’ educational sessions in Jordanian schools teach the facts about HIV transmission and dispel myths that make people feel invincible. Caritas Jordan medical staff have recognized a group at even greater risk than average Jordanians—refugees who may resettle to countries with a higher prevalence of HIV.

During a training session for refugees at a Caritas Jordan clinic in Amman, Dr. Ammar Burqan drew his audience into a question and answer exchange.

At the beginning of the session, some refugees hesitated to speak up. They were mostly over the age of 40 and thought that only young people needed to learn about HIV. Misinformation emerged slowly over a 45-minute session as the refugees asked questions and then engaged in spirited arguments. By the end of the training, it was obvious that refugees in Jordan desperately need basic education about how HIV is spread. Here are a few of the myths that Dr. Burqan had to dispel:

Jordan doctor

Dr. Ammar Burqan, a physician who works for Caritas Jordan, helps dispel popular misconceptions about HIV and AIDS. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS

Myth: HIV can be transmitted through saliva.
Fact: HIV can only be transmitted through specific bodily fluids, such as blood, breast milk, vaginal secretions and semen.
Myth: HIV can be transmitted through the air.
Fact: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), specific fluids must “come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the blood-stream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur.”
Myth: HIV is only transmitted through intercourse.
Fact:HIV can be transmitted any time specific body fluids enter another person’s blood stream or a mucus membrane.
Myth: HIV can be cured.
Fact: HIV can be treated, but there is no cure at this time.
Myth: Only young people need to worry about HIV.
Fact: a person can contract HIV at any point in his or her life.

Dr. Burqan, who provides care for a full caseload of patients in addition to his community education work, finds great value in raising HIV awareness among refugees.

“It’s important to educate all refugees before they are resettled to countries with much higher rates of HIV. Even if these older people never engage in behavior that would put them at a greater risk, they can take this knowledge home and share it with their children.”

As a Catholic organization, Caritas Jordan follows Church teaching in its HIV prevention program. Caritas Jordan values the health care of refugees during their time in Jordan and provides the education they need for healthy lives in their new homelands.

Jennifer Hardy is a communications officer based in Baltimore. She recently traveled to the Middle East.

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