UN voices alarm about spread of HIV in Egypt

Updated 04 December 2017

UN voices alarm about spread of HIV in Egypt

CAIRO: The UN is voicing alarm over the spread of HIV in Egypt, where the number of new cases is growing by up to 40 percent a year, and where efforts to combat the epidemic are hampered by social stigma and a lack of funding to address the crisis.
The virus that causes AIDS, UN officials say, is infecting more young and adolescent people than any other age group.
Egypt, home to some 95 million people, ranks behind only Iran, Sudan and Somalia in the Middle East for the rate at which the epidemic is spreading, according to UN figures. In Egypt, patients are often jailed on trumped up charges and ostracized by society. The disease is associated with homosexuality.
“There is a 25-30 percent increase in incidents every year... It’s is alarming to us because the growth of the epidemic and the discontinuation of interest from donors in funding,” Ahmed Khamis, of the UN AIDS agency, told The Associated Press.
Estimates of the number of people living with HIV in Egypt vary. UNAIDS says there are over 11,000 cases, while the country’s Health Ministry estimates the figure to be around 7,000. The rise in the number of new infections, however, is not in dispute.
“Most recently, we’ve been seeing people of a much younger age group infected with the virus. There is a higher risk now for adolescents and youths than in the past,” said Khamis.
“We don’t have exact numbers, but this is what the evidence we are seeing on the ground is suggesting,” he added, explaining that the lack of funds is hampering Egypt’s capacity to produce precise figures.
Patients who require surgical intervention are often unable to access basic health care at hospitals because of the associated stigma, UNAIDS officials said.
The virus can be spread through sexual contact, as well as contaminated needles or syringes, or blood transfusions. It can also be passed from infected women to their babies at birth or through breast-feeding. But in Egypt, the virus is widely associated with homosexuality. Shunned by society, it is not uncommon for patients to contemplate suicide.
Ahmed, 40, is one of them. “I do not want to be living a life always feeling strapped down and imprisoned,” he told his therapist during a session attended by an AP reporter.
In an anonymous testimony given to UNAIDS and seen by the AP, one woman said she was infected by her late husband and later found it hard to live in a society that rejects people carrying the virus. She was beaten and denied by her family an inheritance she and her children were legally entitled to when her husband died. When she attempted to start a new life with her children in a different neighborhood, her in-laws made sure her new neighbors learned about her condition.


Haftar agrees to lift Libya oil blockade with conditions

Updated 35 min 59 sec ago

Haftar agrees to lift Libya oil blockade with conditions

  • Pro-Haftar groups supported by the Petroleum Facilities Guard blockaded key oilfields and export terminals on January 17

BENGHAZI: Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar announced Friday a conditional lifting of a months-long blockade on oilfields and ports by his forces.
“We have decided to resume oil production and export on condition of a fair distribution of revenues” and guarantee they “will not be used to support terrorism,” he said on television.
Pro-Haftar groups supported by the Petroleum Facilities Guard blockaded key oilfields and export terminals on January 17 to demand what they called a fair share of hydrocarbon revenues.
The blockade, which has resulted in more than $9.8 billion in lost revenue, according to National Petroleum Company (NOC), has exacerbated electricity and fuel shortages in the country.
Dressed in his military uniform, Haftar said the command of his forces had “put aside all military and political considerations” to respond to the “deterioration of living conditions” in Libya, which has Africa’s largest oil reserves.
The announcement comes after hundreds of Libyans protested last week in the eastern city of Benghazi, one of Haftar’s strongholds, and other cities over corruption, power cuts and shortages in petrol and cash.
Protesting peacefully at first, protesters on Sunday set fire to the headquarters of the parallel eastern government in Benghazi and attacked the police station in Al-Marj.
Police officers fired live ammunition to disperse them in Al-Marj, leaving at least one dead and several wounded, according to witnesses and the UN mission in Libya.
Libya has been in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
The country’s oil revenues are managed by the NOC and the central bank, both based in Tripoli, which is also the seat of Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
Haftar runs a rival administration based in the country’s east.
Haftar— who has the backing of Egypt, the UAE and Russia — launched an offensive against Tripoli in April last year.
After 14 months of fierce fighting, pro-GNA forces backed by Turkey expelled his troops from much of western Libya and pushed them to Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s rich oil fields and export terminals.