Morocco moves to protect AIDS patients' rights
By Naoufel Cherkaoui for Magharebia in Rabat – 14/12/10
Morocco's Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH) signed an agreement on December 6th in Rabat with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) aimed at protecting the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.
"Within the framework of our work to promote and protect human rights, we will work on raising awareness that people infected and living with HIV/AIDS shouldn't be treated as outcasts," CCDH President Ahmed Herzenni told Magharebia. "We will also work to change the misconceptions about this disease, which can be avoided through prevention. We must also work to safeguard the rights and dignity of people infected with it."
Kamal Alami, director of the UNAIDS programme in Morocco, told Magharebia that "this initiative is the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa region that gives people living with HIV/AIDS the opportunity to benefit from the major progress that was made in the field of human rights in Morocco."
"The agreement is part of efforts to support the national strategic anti-AIDS programme within the framework of reviewing the programme in terms of human rights," Alami said. "Many recommendations said that this field must be enhanced while working to combat this disease, as when there is exclusion and discrimination against the people living with HIV/AIDS, they would resort to isolation, and in this way they would not benefit from the prevention programmes and from support provided to them."
"Morocco is doing good work in combating AIDS, given that there is commitment on the part of the highest authorities in the country," Alami noted. "In regional conferences, Morocco appears to be the most advanced in this field as compared to the rest of countries in the North Africa and Middle East region."
The UN official added that there was more work to be done, particularly "by expanding the prevention programmes to reach some remote areas that none of these programmes has reached before. In addition, we must encourage people to check for the disease, since we found out that 80% of people infected with the disease in Morocco don't know that they are infected."
In her turn, Aziza Benanni, head of the national anti-AIDS programme for the Moroccan Health Ministry, told Magharebia: "Upon reviewing the national, strategic anti-AIDS plan, we found that there was lack of respect of human rights and in other fields as well. In the framework of the partnership which was kicked off today, we hope to cover all fields and to expand the field of respect of human rights."
"Within the framework of partnership with civil society, we are working on expanding access to early detection of AIDS, given that this facilitates the process of living with the disease and providing support for infected people," she added. "However, we notice low turnout on the part of Moroccans in this process."
Benanni noted that "the Moroccan government is expanding access to detection of the disease". She added that the government "established screening centres at non-government organisations. It has also structured the screening at the primary health centres, and ensured that infected people receive tri-therapy free of charge."
As to the number of people infected with AIDS in Morocco, Alami said, "The latest report of the UNAIDS, which was issued two weeks ago, has estimated the number of AIDS patients in Morocco at 26,000 people." He added that "3,000 cases of infections are recorded every year. However, the incidence rate in Morocco is still low, like the Mediterranean Sea area, which is 1 per 1,000, as compared to some African countries, where the incidence rate is 10%."
Speaking to Magharebia, an HIV-infected woman who did not want her identity published, said that she contracted the disease 20 years ago, after her divorce, when she had several unprotected sexual relationships with different people.
"It was at a time when there were not many means of awareness available, as is the case now," she said.
She added, "There is still discrimination against people affected by AIDS," as she was banned from entering the public bath and hair salon as well as a dental clinic after the news of her infection spread. "Mentalities have changed with time," she concluded.
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