CAIRO: UNAIDS, The United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS, celebrated the end of Egypt’s World AIDS campaign for 2009 by awarding the local partners that contributed to the campaign.
Head of Egyptian Television Nadia Halim led the list of honorees that contributed to the “universal access and human rights -themed world campaign, which aimed to ensure that people living with HIV have access to prevention, care, support and treatment with no discrimination. The campaign worked under the slogan of “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.
In Egypt, the campaign comprised TV and radio ads and a red ribbon photo contest to combat stigma and discrimination.
“Since the first case of HIV was discovered in 1981, an estimated number of 65 million people have been infected by HIV around the world of which an estimated 33.4 million are currently living with HIV, said James W. Rowley, the UN resident coordinator in Egypt.
Studies have shown that people in the 15-24 age-bracket make the most vulnerable victims; each day, 6,000 young people are infected with HIV – more than four new cases each minute.
“In the last 10 minutes, in the world around us, five children under the age of 15 died because of AIDS, Rawley said during last week’s event at the contemporary art and culture center, Darb 1718.
Dr Ihab Abdel-Rahman, head of the national AIDS committee, said, “About 1,700 AIDS-infected Egyptians have been reported. However, we expect to have 10,000 infected people here in Egypt, if not much more.
UNAIDS and the World Health Organization estimate that the actual number of people currently living with HIV/AIDS in Egypt ranges from 2,900 to 13,000. Adults in the 20-40-age group are the most affected, with four more times reported cases among men than women, according to the World AIDS Campaign website. “This could be because more men than women are tested for HIV; most of the tests in Egypt are performed on male migrants applying for a ‘disease free’ certificate to work in the Gulf countries, read the website.
“According to the 2005 Demographic Health Survey, only six percent of women have comprehensive knowledge of HIV. Outreach to women who are most likely to be exposed to HIV, such as sex workers, women in poverty, and injecting drug users, has begun, but coverage remains limited, it added.
Street children, prisoners and refugees are also categorized as people likely to be exposed to HIV in Egypt.
“The more we decrease the discrimination, the better we can plan for the epidemic here in Egypt , said Dr Abdel-Rahman.
This year, the campaign focused on changing media perspective and portrayal of HIV patients. It aimed at abolishing prevalent misconceptions that stigmatize patients.
“No matter what the media says, the disease is in Egypt, said Dr Abdel-Rahman, explaining that patients need attention and medical care, not attack.
Egypt has signed both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.
Accordingly, the National AIDS Program and a range of national partners are working in collaboration with international agencies to increase awareness among and provide services to vulnerable populations.
“We are working on a strategy for media said Dr Abdel-Rahman. The government, he continued, is revising the current National Strategic Plan for 2007-11 on HIV and AIDS, which included three main stake holders: several key government sectors, international agencies and civil society.
The government ran different programs, which include, but are not limited to, anonymous voluntary counseling, testing facilities across the country, free antiretroviral medications for people living with HIV, several peer-education programs on HIV, and several outreach programs for most-at-risk populations, such as injecting drug users and sex workers.