“When I was learning more about this cause, I saw two scenarios on how the community can address HIV. It is time to address the issue in a more positive way. HIV is not a death sentence, it is a chronic disease, and let’s just tackle it for what it really is.”
These were the sincere words of renowned Egyptian film and TV star Nelly Karim, who addressed attendees at an event organised by the UN Joint Team on HIV/AIDS under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Population, in collaboration with the National AIDS Programme.
The event, which was held at the Egyptian Diplomatic Club on 10 December, comes as part of the National AIDS Advocacy campaign recently launched to increase public awareness about HIV.
Ambassador Mahmoud Amer, deputy assistant minister of foreign affairs for political and regional organisations, said that the aim of the event was to highlight Egypt's political commitment to ending AIDS by 2030 in line with UN goals.
“Egypt recognises the importance of working together with UNAIDS to achieve our national and global targets of ending AIDS by 2030,” Amer said.
The event was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Health and Population, the foreign minister’s assistant ambassador, Ihab Fawzy, the heads of UN agencies and the UN Joint Team on HIV/AIDS, and foreign ambassadors.
Also in attendance were Egyptian celebrities, most notably Nelly Karim, who was recently named as an ambassador for UNAIDS in Egypt, as well as representatives of youth organisations and the media.
Each year, Egypt commemorates World AIDS Day on 1 December through a nationwide advocacy campaign aimed at spreading awareness about HIV and combating misconceptions about the disease.
According to statistics from the World Health Organisation, the number of people currently living with HIV globally is 36.7 million.
The latest statistics from UNAIDS Egypt, issued in 2014, state that the number of confirmed cases of HIV in Egypt stands at nearly 8,800, though other estimates put the number at 11,000 overall.
Though the disease affects less than one percent of the population, making Egypt a low-prevalence country, challenges remain surrounding health education and social stigma about HIV/AIDS.
Nelly Karim joins forces with HIV campaign, photo: UNAIDS