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Thursday, 21 June 2018

Three governorates see hope as project supports sexual and reproductive health for women living with HIV

An event 30 May looked back at a pilot project that ran in three governorates, aiming to assist women living with HIV

Ingy Deif, Wednesday 6 Jun 2018
Photo: UNAIDS
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An event 30 May marked another highlight in Egypt’s efforts to reach out with help to people in the country living with HIV.

The event was a ceremony to display the results of a pilot project named "Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health for Women Lliving with HIV in Egypt.” It took place in three governorates: Giza, Dakahlia and Gharbia.

The project was the result of cooperation between three main entities: the National AIDS Programme (NAP), which is affiliated to the Ministry of Health and Population, the UNAIDS office in Egypt, and the financial support of the Embassy of The Netherlands in Egypt.

The three governorates were selected were on the basis of the number of women in need of support.

At its onset, in 2016, the project targeted 150 women and finally reached out to 300 beneficiaries in the three governorates.

The project provided women with HIV with basic counseling to help them maintain their physical, psychological and social health.

Services also included family planning, antenatal care and postpartum care, as well as procedures to ensure safe pregnancy, succeeding in supporting the safe delivery of 12 HIV-free children.

Dutch Ambassador Laurens Westhoff underlined the role of all stakeholders in collective efforts to end HIV.

He hailed the efforts of the project, which ran for two years, highlighting The Netherlands' commitment to UN Sustainable Development Goals to achieve a better integrated approach to reproductive health and HIV, adding that his country would continue its support and replicate the project in other governorates in Egypt.

Dr Alaa Eid, undersecretary for preventive medicine at the Ministry of Health and Population, drew attention to the alarming fact that women in Egypt are under-diagnosed in comparison to males, because of stigma.

He hailed the successful partnership embodied in the project and highlighted that in Egypt all services are provided free for people living with HIV, including testing, counseling, provision of medication and clinical services.

A global HIV update was presented by UNAIDS Egypt country manager Dr Ahmed Khamis, who said that 36 million people are living now with HIV according to 2016 statistics, and in that same year 1.8 million new infections with the virus had been estimated.

Khamis said that the project was a manifestation of successful collaboration between the Egyptian government and UNAIDS along with tremendous help from the Dutch Embassy.

The situation Egypt on the whole was addressed by National AIDS Programme manager Dr Walid Kamal.

“In Egypt, we are still dealing with the last officially registered statistics of 2016, that puts the number of people living with HIV at around 11,000; that is, around 0.02 percent of the population,” he said.

Kamal added that NAP estimates new infections in Egypt in 2017 number around 1,600 cases. He said that females comprise only 18 percent of detected cases, which is an indication of the stigma that still surrounds the topic.

Ambassador Seif-alla Kandeel, director of UN specialized agencies at the Ministry of Social Affairs, seconded the speakers words, saying that Egypt now boasts a positive history of changing the course of serious health challenges, with the world hailing Egypt’s experience in treating Hepatitis C, a success story that is an inspiration and that leads to more endeavours in addressing other health issues, including HIV.

“There is no silver bullet when it comes to HIV, but keywords in regards to achieving positive results are: partnerships, awareness and access to medicine and healthcare,” Kandeel added.

The event included inspiring words of women living with HIV who could successfully deliver healthy children with help provided by the programme, as well as a short film documenting the progress of the project, and a panel discussion involving different stakeholders in the three governorates to shed light on future challenges and to reflect on achieved results.

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