Egyptian Leaders Pay Little Attention to HIV/AIDS, Article Says
Leaders in Egypt -- where HIV prevalence is less than 0.1% -- have not made tackling the disease a priority, and "Egyptians are barely aware that HIV/AIDS exists in their society," IRIN News/AllAfrica.com reports. UNAIDS estimates that 13,000 people in Egypt -- which has the highest hepatitis C prevalence in the world -- in 2005 were HIV-positive, and according to UNAIDS country officer Maha Aon, trends indicate that the number of new HIV cases in the country are increasing. Almost 70% of HIV infections in the country occur through sexual transmission, and little is known about HIV/AIDS rates among vulnerable groups including injection drug users, commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men, according to IRIN News/AllAfrica.com. Recent studies report that HIV prevalence among MSM in the country could be as high as 6%, according to Sany Kozman, head of Caritas Alexandria. In addition, mistrust among IDUs hinders HIV prevention messages from reaching them, IRIN News/AllAfrica.com report. "Stigma fuels everything ... drug users are in denial and they don't know enough to protect themselves," Ehab El Kharrat -- who runs a nongovernmental organization that provides outreach services, including HIV/AIDS education to IDUs -- said. Children who live on the streets also are at risk because they engage in risky behavior, such as injection drug use and commercial sex work, Aon said. In addition, many young people in Egypt are not educated about HIV/AIDS, and condoms are "highly stigmatized" in the country and are considered a "bad thing," Aon said. According to Aon, UNAIDS is seeking to launch outreach programs in Egypt to provide MSM with information on HIV/AIDS and condoms (Ndaki, IRIN News/AllAfrica.com, 12/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.