By Houda Mzioudet.
Tripoli, 1 December 2013:
In line with the rest of the world, Libya has been marking World AIDS Day 2013 . . .[restrict]today in Tripoli. A big tent has been erected in the middle of Martyrs’ Square. Organised by the Health ministry’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the start of the three-day event brought representatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Libya and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Libyan civil society organisations are also taking part with the aim of raising awareness about HIV-related diseases in Libya and lifting the stigma around it.
The challenge was driven home by a group of people who are themselves living with AIDS.
Members of the civil society organisation Al-Tahaddi Association to Fight AIDS, campaigning behind the slogan “Support. Do not punish” asked officials from NCDC to raise the issue of HIV-related diseases with the Libyan government, in an effort to end the ostracising of those affected with HIV/AIDS.
Female members of the association denounced discrimination against HIV patients, which stripped them of their basic human rights such as access to adequate healthcare, work and living in dignity.
Ali Riani, director of Libyan Association for Human Rights and International Relief and a member of Al-Tahaddi stressed to the Libya Herald the need to re-integrate HIV-infected Libyans as effective members of society.
“It is really frustrating for everyone here see that no one from the GNC or senior government official has decided to attend this important day” said Riani. Another Al-Tahaddi member described the lack of any congress members as “a calamity”.
A woman who has been living with HIV since 2005 told the Libya Herald on condition of anonymity that despite getting some treatment for her disease, there is still lack of comprehensive care.
“When you tell people that you are HIV-affected, they despise you,” she said, “What we want is to restore our rights to basic healthcare and psychological assistance that have been stripped from us as normal citizens,” she concluded.
The Ministry of Education’s stand showed drawings and competitions from children, aimed at raising awareness of HIV along with the dangers of drugs. There are around 30 stalls from different NGOs including Libyan Red Crescent.