GV report by Tashrik Ahmed
A primary player in the sweeping revolution in the Mediterranean region known as the Arab spring, Egypt has garnered much media attention in the past year. Leveraging this media blitz and the broader underlying progressive movement has been the goal of a coalition of local organizations, aiming to change the dialogue concerning persons living with HIV/AIDS. The session highlighted a number of main areas in which have been identified as key stakeholders in this transition: the workplace, PLWHA, biomedical and health care institutions, national government, religious leadership, media, and the family and community. The presenters moved through each group, highlighting the factors contributing to stigmatization and discrimination against PLWHA. Underscoring each group was general ignorance surrounding the facts of HIV infection, causing fear and misinformation. As a visceral demonstration to this effect, the presentation began with a short video called Mona. The namesake character is a young women living with HIV, scorned by her family members, unable to find work, and turned away from healthcare before encountering a sympathetic physician. The revulsion towards her serostatus on screen was then matched with data in the proceeding presentations – 35% of those surveyed in the country believe PLWHA should not be allowed to work, and almost every single positive person identified persons close to them who no longer kept contact due to the infection. Recommendations made by the panel included advocating that national laws follow international treaties and standards, approaching the religious institution in a culturally specific manner, and educating the media and positive spokespersons to increase HIV awareness and reduce stigma.