HIV SITUATION IN EGYPT 2017

Egypt like other countries in the MENA region has been one of the low prevalence countries among general population (below 0.1%). However most recently, alarming numbers of new infections has been recorded, putting Egypt in the fourth place in relation to number of new cases in the region, with an increasing trend of new infections among youth. 11,000 are
estimated to be living with HIV, 25-30% annual increase in new cases and 76% growing trend since 2010, were reported by the end of 2016.

Egypt’s HIV epidemic is on the rise, at a time where many countries are able to control the spread. Incorrect information among young people, and a hindering stigma and discrimination remain key challenges, in addition to the decreased funding especially to prevention.

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HIV Situation in Egypt 2017

What are some misconceptions about AIDS in Egypt?

Some believe that the main cause of transmission in Egypt is contaminated blood, but that is not true. People living with HIV through sexual relations is the main reason for the infection. Likewise there is no risk in donating blood as the needles used in blood donations are always new and used once. Unprotected sex in the context of marriage is not risk-free if one partner is infected.

Who defines human rights and who is responsible for them?

Human rights are defined through international conventions and declarations that are signed and ratified by all member states of the United Nations.  In addition these rights are also defined in most country constitutions, including that of Egypt. Countries are responsible for upholding these rights for their citizens and residents alike.  Individuals are also responsible for fighting for their rights and for respecting the rights of others.

HIV Epidemic Overview and Trends in Egypt in 2014

Egypt has low HIV prevalence among the general population (below 0.1%) and a concentrated epidemic (above 5%) among some populations. Until the end of 2011, 2,471 Egyptians are known to be living with HIV; among whom, 388 (15.7 %) developed AIDS. Over the past ten years, the number of detected cases has seen exponential increase as shown in the trend graph below. This could be attributed to both the increase in testing for HIV and a potential increase in HIV infections. During 2011 only, a total of 468 new HIV cases were detected.

Cumulatively and till 2010, most transmissions occurred sexually (66.8%) with (46.2%) heterosexual and (20.6%) homosexual transmissions, while Transmission through injecting drug use represents (28.3%) of all cases. Among detected cases in 2010, (4.9%) were children of various ages denoting increase in mother to child transmission. Transmission through blood/blood products including renal dialysis was not determined lately but has been a serious problem in the recent past. [1]

There is a special vulnerability for women and girls due to lower socioeconomic status as well as weak access to prevention and services. UNAIDS/WHO estimates that there are 1,500 (1000-2900) women of 15 years and over living with HIV till 2011 (UNAIDS, 2012). Very few women present for voluntary counseling and testing (less than 20% of VCT attendees)[2]. Coverage of services for preventing mother to child transmission remains limited in Egypt.

Risk determinants for a wider epidemic exist due to a large population of young people with very low knowledge of HIV (4.8% and 18.3% of females and males respectively have comprehensive knowledge of HIV)[3]; poverty (21.6% of population under poverty line which reaches 66% in Upper Egypt ), the continued presence of illiteracy in the general population (38%) especially among women, high rates of unemployment of 9.4%, and up to 40 % among women below 30 years[4]; and high rates of risk behaviors and very low condom use.

National Response to HIV in Egypt

Egypt has strengthened anonymous voluntary counseling and testing facilities, availed free antiretroviral medication for people living with HIV, and initiated various peer-education programs for vulnerable populations including women and youth. Civil Society Organizations are supported to implement peer-education programs on HIV for vulnerable and most-at-risk populations groups (street children, refugees, prisoners, etc). The National AIDS Program recently developed an updated situation and response analysis for HIV; and a strategic framework for the next five years (2012-16).

Snapshots of UNAIDS Advocacy Work in Egypt

Feature Movie

 Asmaa

October 2011 – Asmaa is the first feature movie in the Arab world addressing human rights aspects of People Living with HIV and focusing on a true story of a woman living with HIV. UNAIDS Egypt initiated a project to produce a feature film that brings a human face to HIV and features characters that the public can identify with. Over several years, of advocacy with scriptwriters and film makers, UNAIDS collaborated with Script Writer and Director Amr Salama to develop a script for UNAIDS. UNAIDS then together with Salama, collaborated with Film Clinic and New Century to produce Asmaa starring Hind Sabry.  After seven years of initiating this project, Asmaa was launched in December 2011 and soon after was awarded over seventeen international awards.  (More information on Asmaa is provided in this press kit under “Asmaa Comes to Light”)  

World AIDS Campaign

Since 2004, around World AIDS Day on December 1st, UNAIDS Secretariat has been coordinating the organization of an annual nation-wide campaign addressing HIV and AIDS in Egypt. The annual campaign is organized through the contributions of several UN agencies, private sector, youth groups and civil society organizations and in partnership with the National AIDS Program.

Each year the campaign is launched with a set of contextualized objectives and a theme. Tackling stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS in Egypt is among the campaign objectives. The campaign targets the public with focus on youth through events (e.g. cycling, marathon, concerts, and festivals). A media advocacy component is usually incorporated through recording and airing of Radio and TV spots and written media coverage.

A core component of every year’s campaign is a University events led by youth organizations (E.g. International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations – Egypt , Egyptian Pharmaceutical Students Federation). In such events youth activists hold advocacy and awareness outlets for their peers using youth friendly Information, Education and Communication materials supported by UNAIDS.

AIDS & Arts:

2008- 2011 – UNAIDS Egypt organized annual competitions for artistic expression related to HIV. The contests focused on photography and painting with images that would reflect a deep understanding of the HIV problem in Egypt and would aim to tackle AIDS-related stigma.  Annual events honored participants with certificates of appreciation and winning awards. The submissions contributed greatly to UNAIDS work and were often used in publications. The art work is usually displayed in public events, and often featured on various UNAIDS supported websites and social media outlets.

Media Advocacy

UNAIDS Egypt has appointed Actress Menna Shalaby as UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador in Egypt on December 1st 2010. Also UNAIDS Egypt was supported by Actor Amr Waked since 2004, long before he was appointed UNAIDS Regional Goodwill Ambassador in July 2010.

UNAIDS is privileged of the support and collaboration of it longtime friend and advocate Khaled Abol Naga, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Hend Sabry, World Food Program Regional Goodwill Ambassador and leading actress of the movie Asmaa- initiated and cosponsored by UNAIDS Egypt.

UNAIDS also collaborates with Amr Salama, Director Movie Asmaa and other documentaries for UNAIDS;  Maged El Kedwany, Bushra, Tarek Allam, Basma, Nelly Karim, Shahira Amin and Hwaida Abu Haif on various programs

Photo Exhibition: “Positive Faces in Egypt “

May 2011 – UNAIDS in collaboration with Sawy Cultural Wheel organized a photo exhibition with the theme “Positive Faces of Egypt”. The ten-days photo exhibition was organized to display fifty photographs that show case positive faces from the Egyptian revolution and photographs highlighting positive faces rejecting HIV related stigma in Egypt. The Photography Exhibition was accompanied by a discussion forum with panelists Ms. Menna Shalabi, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, Mr. Monir El Shazly, Expert Photographer, Dr. Mohamed Salah, of the International Federation of Medical Students Association; and Dr. Wessam El Beih, UNAIDS Country Coordinator in Egypt.

AIDS Tunnel

June 2008 – The Tunnel is a creative method aiming at educating the participants on various HIV related issues through simulation of experience. The tunnel was composed of several stations where participants experience HIV testing , engage in discussions of misinformation and meet with people who could be living with HIV. Participants were dressed in standard t shirts branded ( HIV+?) to emphasis that one can’t tell by external appearance whether they are HIV positive. On the last station participants were invited to look into a mirror hidden by a curtain to see what a person living with HIV looks like. The tunnel has been developed in collaboration with HIV celebrity activist Khaled Abol Naga and with participation of celebrities Mohamed Mounir and Hind Sabry.

Youth Initiatives:

Since 2005, UNAIDS Egypt has been partnering with youth groups and youth lead organizations such as International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA-Egypt), Y-PEER , Dance 4 life , Rotaract and Pharmaceutical students association to disseminate awareness to their peers. UNAIDS often engaged youth groups in World AIDS Campaign activities organizing.

 

UNAIDS supports youth groups effort to disseminate awareness on HIV and AIDS and tackle stigma and discrimination among their peers through a youth friendly message and approach. UNAIDS conducted trainings for youth group leaders to sensitize them to HIV issues in Egypt and standardize messages.

December 2009: UNAIDS recruited volunteers as interns from different disciplines to engage in organizing the world AIDS campaign and included a capacity development component for this internship programme to promote their understanding of the HIV issues and advocate for the cause among their peers.

December 2010: UNAIDS worked closely with volunteers from youth lead organizations in public and private universities in Egypt (e.g.:  Cairo University, Alexandria University, Ahram Canadian University, American University, Misr International University) to launch a nationwide awareness campaign supported by UNAIDS. Capacity development sessions have been conducted for universities representatives to enable them to conduct awareness sessions for their peers.

November 2011: UNAIDS participated with the UN family in Egypt in a youth engagement event. The event was hosted by Sawy Cultural wheel. The one day event presented youth targeted activities, ideas and edutainment activities to highlight the messages. A strong emphasis was made on illustrating UNAIDS CrowdoutAIDS initiative for youth participation in setting a global youth policy and inviting Egyptian young people to participate.

March 2012: UNAIDS participated in UN Volunteerism day held at Cairo Citadel. The event was aimed to promote the spirit of volunteerism to Egyptian youth and shed the light on the essential role youth can play in development through volunteering. UNAIDS organized a booth for youth outreach and disseminated information on HIV and AIDS situation in Egypt. Youth were invited to actively participate in UNAIDS social media outlets and spread awareness on upcoming youth targeted events.