An Egyptian by the name of Magid became the first in that country to openly speak out about being HIV-positive. Studies estimate that about 11,000 Egyptians are living with HIV, but that number could be much higher based on the fact that so many do not get tested or seek treatment based on the high degree of stigma against the disease.
Ahmed Awadalla was part of the Rising Voices grantee project Exploring Taboos, and has posted in his blog about “the price of stigma” in Egypt. He writes in his blog Rebel With A Cause:
When it comes to discussing HIV/AIDS in Egypt, most probably you’d be faced by either one of two reactions: one that is characterized by fear, shock, and discomfort or a reaction marked by denial and disdain.
Ahmed points to a recent survey of Egyptian youth that found that only 21% said that they would be willing to interact with someone who was HIV-positive. This type of reaction to others is also a huge challenge for those working to reverse this stigma. Ahmed adds:
Clearly, the biggest obstacle to HIV awareness work is the stigma against people living with HIV. People living with HIV have to suffer in silence, shameful to seek help or treatment and if it was revealed that they are HIV+, they’re shunned, mistreated by their community, workplace, and even their close and loved ones. This life of isolation is the killer in the case of HIV, rather than the disease itself.
In another blog post for the site Conversations for a Better World, Ahmed writes about what has happened to the issue of HIV/AIDS after the January 25 Revolution. He describes how the new government decided to stop certain programs that aimed to educate and inform, and some of that may be due to increased media control. He also this environment has been difficult for health care workers and other activists attempting to educate the public-at-large:
It’s a very grim reality that even healthcare providers exercise the worst forms of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. Yes, the disease is linked to certain misconceptions about sexual behavior. Whenever we organize events to raise awareness on HIV, I ask participants about what transmits the virus. The most common answer is illegitimate sex! Unfortunately the amount of disinformation/lack of awareness is huge.