Regional network of people living with HIV launched in the Middle East and North Africa

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The HIV epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa is still growing with an estimated 20 000 new HIV infections in 2019 marking a 25% increase over the 16 000 new infections in 2010. In response, community leaders living with HIV have come together to launch the first regional network of people living with HIV, MENA Plus, to strengthen the community HIV response in the region.

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, UNAIDS, the region is far from controlling its HIV epidemic and HIV treatment coverage is low, with only 38% of people living with HIV accessing HIV treatment in 2019, resulting in 8000 people dying from AIDS-related illnesses in the region.

The network will advocate for HIV treatment and prevention services in the region, the sustainability of HIV funding and ending vertical (from mother to child) transmission of HIV and new HIV infections among children.

MENA Plus will put a strong emphasis on human rights, campaigning on sexual and reproductive rights, sensitization on gender diversity and sexual orientation and the rights of minorities and key populations—vital for a region whose HIV epidemic is highly concentrated among key populations and their sexual partners.

“It is time people living with HIV have a network where they make their own decisions and get our rights without stigma and discrimination,” said Amina Ibrahim (not her real name), a member of MENA Plus from Egypt.

Through enhancing the leadership, representation and effective participation of people living with HIV, especially in decision-making around health and social and financial programmes, MENA Plus aims to empower people living with HIV in the region.

“MENA plus is a welcome addition to our UNAIDS team of partners across the Middle East and North Africa. Our friends, family and colleagues living with HIV have shown remarkable resilience, determination and innovation in responding to the interconnected challenges posed by HIV and COVID-19 in recent years,”

“Through MENA Plus, their work has the potential for even greater impact, as the new global AIDS strategy puts community-led responses at the heart of UNAIDS’ work,” said Shereen El Feki, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for the Middle East and North Africa.

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