By Siham Ali
By Siham Ali
RABAT, April 27, 2012 (Magharebia)
Morocco just unveiled a new strategy to cut the AIDS mortality rate by 60% over the next four years.
The Moroccan health ministry will focus on public awareness, targeted prevention, and ending the stigma associated with the condition.
“Morocco is waging an exemplary war against AIDS,” UNAIDS director Michel Sidibé said in Rabat at an April 3rd conference on the initiative, which also aims to halve the number of new HIV infections by 2016.
According to the health ministry, HIV/AIDS was first reported in Morocco in 1986. By the end of 2011, the number of reported cases had reached 6,453, with 4,169 having reached the AIDS stage and with 2,284 infecting asymptomatic HIV carriers. Estimates suggest that 29,000 Moroccans are living with HIV, of which 10,000 require antiviral treatment.
In effort to increase public awareness, Moroccan Education Minister Mohamed El Ouafa argued that schools and colleges should be targeted by the campaign first. The education ministry, the health department and associated partners must work together to reach at risk groups.
A social marketing campaign will encourage vulnerable women and young people to use condoms. Also, after the calls of human rights groups, the plan will work to counter stigmatisation of the condition.
National Human Rights Council (CNDH) Chairman Driss Yazami explained that patients with AIDS suffer a range of explicit and implicit discrimination at both the institutional and societal levels.
Therefore work needs to be done to help dispel prejudice, to protect the rights the diseased and their families, and to allow them full legal access to care without any discrimination or judgemental attitudes.
With input from the CNDH, the strategy considers the needs of those who suffer HIV discrimination such as 45-year-old Farida, who told Magharebia about her experience.
“I was infected by my husband, who died five years ago,” Farida explained. “My family has rejected me because of their fear of infection. I had to move far away so that no-one would know I was an AIDS carrier. And, I now live alone.”
The new strategy aims to extend AIDS prevention campaigns to at least 60% of those people most likely to become exposed to it with a goal of testing two million people by 2016. Thirty new screening centres are planned through NGO partnerships in addition to a plan to promote screening in 358 health centres and 55 tuberculosis and respiratory disease centres across Morocco.
The health ministry hopes to reach 80% of those considered “high risk”, including to those who inject drugs, pregnant women, and those needing antiviral or psychological treatment.
The budget for the programme is estimated at 810 million dirhams over five years, 46% of which will be financed from the state budget, 41% from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, and 13% from other national, UN and partnership sources.
Morocco’s action on the issue has been welcomed internationally.
“Morocco can serve as a model in this area for Africa, where the victims of the epidemic number millions,” said Sidibé, who travelled to Morocco especially for the unveiling of the plan.
“They have something to be proud of, in terms of AIDS prevention and patient treatment in Morocco, with people at the centre of officials’ concerns,” he added.