The National AIDS Control Programme at Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population, in cooperation with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and with leading pharmaceutical company EVA Pharma, has launched a new campaign to fight discrimination against people infected with HIV and address societal fears around the disease.
The “Zay Ay Marad” (“Like Any Disease”) campaign was launched in conjunction with World AIDS Day, which falls on December 1 each year.
Dr Hossam Abdel Ghaffar, the official spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Population, said that Egypt is among the countries with a low rate of people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In addition, while the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected the provision of treatment for people living with HIV in many countries, Egypt’s national program to combat AIDS was not affected, he said. In fact, there was an expansion in the umbrella of services provided by the program, and in the provision of the most up-to-date treatments to patients.
Dr Abdel Ghaffar stressed the importance of the new campaign in providing detailed information related to the disease and the methods of transmission in order to prevent discrimination against patients and to change the mindset that the infection is a “defect,” as is sometimes said.
Dr Abdel Ghaffar pointed out that the disease is transmitted in several ways, including via blood contaminated with the virus, by using injection tools that were used by a person infected with the virus, through sexual relations with an infected person, or from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Dr Heba El-Sayed, director of the National AIDS Control Program, said that the “Zay Ay Marad” campaign was launched in order to educate Egyptians that people living with HIV do not transmit the infection through normal daily interaction, in order to stop the discrimination against people infected with the virus.
Dr. El-Sayed, speaking at the campaign launch ceremony, said that the program provides all necessary services to patients infected with the virus free of charge, including examination and counseling related to the virus, and in strict confidentiality. It also provides integrated social support for people infected with the virus and their families, and clinical care for those infected via treatment centers at specialized fever hospitals in all Egyptian governorates.
She added that a hotline is provided for those infected with HIV or those who have queries about it, on the numbers 0233152802, 0233152801, and 09007008000.
The programme aims to coordinate efforts with all parties to combat the disease, reduce infections, and maintain Egypt’s status as a country with a low infection rate, while striving to eradicate AIDS in Egypt and achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, she said.
She stressed that Egypt is one of the leading countries in the field of AIDS medicines, and that thanks to companies such as EVA Pharma, Egypt is now able to provide treatment for 97% of people living with the illness through locally manufactured medicines, whereas previously all medication had been imported.
Dr. Walid Kamal, director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Egypt, praised the efforts of the Egyptian state in combating HIV, and the cooperation of the national program with all partner agencies to serve patients, stressing that the celebration of World AIDS Day and the launch of the campaign aims to combat discrimination against people living with the virus.
The Egyptian state program is expanding the provision of examination services and health advice, in cooperation with the United Nations, to make the service available to any patient who needs it, in a way that contributes to further limiting the spread of the disease, Dr. Kamal said, noting that Egypt is one of the first countries in the Middle East to provide free treatment and services for HIV patients.
Dr. Kamal explained that the “Zay Ay Marad” campaign will organize many awareness activities on social media and established media to publicize correct information about the disease, fight discrimination, and raise awareness of HIV, which leads to AIDS.
He noted the Egyptian state’s keenness to provide the latest pioneering treatments in line with new developments, in a way that improves the health condition of patients, limits the spread of the virus further, and facilitates patients’ coexistence with the illness.
Dr. Riad Armanious, managing director of leading national pharmaceutical company EVA Pharma, expressed his enthusiasm for the cooperation with the health ministry and with UNAIDS. He said that the campaign’s name was selected because the HIV virus that causes AIDS is “like any disease” in the way it is spread, diagnosed, and the availability of treatment, and the patient’s right to psychological support and to live without discrimination.
Dr. Armanious added, in his speech at the launch ceremony, that the launch of the campaign is an important day to support health as a human right, pointing to the availability of an integrated treatment program in which people infected with HIV continue to live full lives. He also said that he appreciated Egypt’s efforts in providing an integrated program that treats patients with complete confidentiality and provides treatment and testing free of charge.
He noted that EVA contributes to raising awareness of the disease, as well as developing model clinics to treat this type of virus and training doctors on the topic.