For Nature Middle East, 2013 has been an exciting year — with wider coverage of the latest in science and research from across the region, and the beta-launch of our monthly special editions earlier in the year, and regularly starting October.
Our specials section decided to go nuclear, in its experimental edition in April 2013, highlighting the four major players in the region on the this front. We explored the potential and ambitions of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in nuclear energy development. The overarching question was: What kind of progress these countries can generate as they muddle through complex politics and logistics?
Our debut in October produced multiple features and news pieces on one of the most feared diseases of the century: cancer, whose incidence is expected to increase in the Middle East more than any other part of the world. From cancer screening in Algeria, which sadly occurs too late for many patients, to a prevalence of advanced breast cancer in Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Sudan, and the presence of a uniquely vicious type of the malignant disease in the Arab world, our cancer special balanced statistics from the ground with eye-opening lab findings in this area.
In November, the spotlight has shone on stem cell research in the region — one that experienced a head-start when Muslim scholars green-lighted basic research using embryonic stem cells. Promising research, such as that carried out by a team of scientists in Egypt using stem cells to find a cure for diabetes, is juxtaposed against opinions by experts from the field on regional policies, and how to move forward, logistical problems and financing shortages notwithstanding.
Finally, in December, Nature Middle East decided to get closure by talking about the elephant in the room: the rising prevalence rate of the HIV and AIDS in the region, which remains to be one of the most pressing issues thus far considering how little information we have regarding its spread.
You can’t talk about HIV without tackling stigma, which, as it turns out, is a solid force in the region; thwarting proper assessment of the incidence of the virus in 10 countries, affecting the reach of treatment (and in turn its effectiveness), and putting up proverbial walls between risk groups and health workers trying to help.
It’s a mixed bag. Worrying trends persist in some countries; for example around 80% of people living with HIV/AIDS in the region are not aware they’re carriers of the virus. While in others, there’s a measure of progress, with countries like Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Syria and Tunisia, adopting a hard reduction approach to curb the virus.