Under the slogan ‘Health for All: Preventing Stigma in Health Facilities’, Egypt’s Ministry of Health recently announced a plan to eradicate AIDS by 2030.
According to the Health Ministry, and to data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations AIDS, the rate of HIV infection in Egypt stood at less than 0.02 per cent in 2018, one of the lowest in the world.
A Ministry spokesperson explained that the ministry attaches importance to combating HIV infection as well as providing care for those already infected, especially focusing on decreasing infection progressively until the disease is completely eradicated by 2030.
The Health Ministry also ensures that medical services are provided to HIV-positive patients reluctant to use public centers of treatment due to widespread stigma against patients, as confirmed by local studies.
The spokesperson said the government was increasing its testing processes, creating a follow-up system and providing regular treatment to control patients’ viral infections.
The Ministry is also fortifying various already-existing programmes such as that of protection of health workers or infants born to HIV-positive mothers.
HIV is not to be confused with AIDS. Although many Egyptians are familiar with the stigma-laden latter term, most are not aware that HIV refers to the human immunodeficiency virus which could develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) if the virus is left unchecked.
In 2017, the UN had expressed concern that HIV was on the rise in Egypt, with the number of new cases growing by up to 40 per cent a year.
Efforts to fight the disease are obstructed by harsh social stigma, lack of awareness about testing methods, and lack of resources.
HIV is often associated with homosexuality or pre-marital sex; both are sensitive topics in Egypt.And even among the most educated, testing for HIV is not done regularly.