CAIRO: Today, Dec. 1, Egypt will commemorate World AIDS Day for the sixth year, with activities and events aimed at raising awareness about the disease as well as removing the stigma associated with it.
Under the slogan ‘What will you do to help?’ this year events’ main theme is a call for action.
A number of different activities will be held to commemorate the day in Egypt, including an awareness campaign by young students held in 19 universities across 10 cities. Television and radio slots will also be dedicated to the topic, as well as celebrity endorsements by UNAIDS Goodwill ambassador, Amr Waked, and UN Goodwill Ambassador Khaled Aboul Naga and Menna Shalaby.
The main event will be held on Dec. 3, bringing together all partners from civil society organizations, the government and the private sector.
World AIDS Day is commemorated globally with similar activities and events. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls for a sustainable response to the epidemic, in his message for World AIDS Day.
“Fewer people are becoming infected with HIV. Millions of people have gained access to HIV treatment. More women are now able to prevent their babies from becoming infected with HIV. Travel restrictions for people living with HIV are being lifted by many countries, as stigma gives way – still too slowly – to compassion and recognition of human rights,” he said.
“With commitment and solidarity, this movement is helping the world turn the corner on the AIDS epidemic,” Ki-moon said, noting that the first part of Millennium Development Goal 6, halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV, has been reached.
Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, so, three decades into the crisis, Ki-moon called for “achieving the three zeros; zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.”
World AIDS Day is held under the theme of universal access and human rights. The World AIDS Campaign is working to promote the Light for Rights campaign, which will take place on every continent.
“The theme is about every human right for access to prevention, treatment, care and support,” explains Wessam El-Beih, UNAIDS country officer in Egypt.
The Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+) and the World AIDS Campaign say that to ensure continued success, policies and programs must respect and protect the human rights of those most affected with HIV.
The 2010 Global Update on the AIDS Epidemic by the UNAIDS suggests that significant progress has been made in advancing access to HIV prevention, treatment, support and care over the past 10 years, but notes that human rights approaches are crucial to further progress.
“There has been significant progress during the past several years especially in the availability of voluntary counseling and testing centers, which are now 23 in 13 governorates around Egypt,” explains El-Beih.
The Ministry of Health is also offering access to medication free of charge, as well as several programs addressing the high risk groups in order to prevent new infections, she added.
However, there still remain challenges, “It is important that these programs expand to cover more governorates and there also needs to be more focus on programs for people living with HIV/AIDS addressing the stigma and discrimination they face,” said El-Beih.