Understanding HIV-related vulnerabilities and stigma among egyptian youth

Type Working Paper
Title Understanding HIV-related vulnerabilities and stigma among egyptian youth
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
URL http://www.popcouncil.org/uploads/pdfs/2016PGY_HIV-VulnerabilitiesEgypt.pdf
Young people aged 15–24 years constitute
about one-quarter of Egypt’s population of
90 million. The HIV prevalence rate among
the general population is low (0.013% in the
adult population in 2014), however, there are
reports suggesting an increase in the number
of HIV infections among young people (15–
24). Socio-cultural taboos around discussing
sexuality in Egypt’s conservative society and
stigma associated with HIV/AIDS along with
a lack of reliable data have limited our
understanding of the HIV situation among
Egyptian youth. The overall objective of the
current study is to provide an evidence-based
description and interpretation of the HIVrelated
risks and vulnerabilities faced by
different subgroups of youth in Egypt.
This study is part of a six-country study that
was conducted by the Population Council in
Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa,
and Uganda. The study examines social,
economic, cultural, and legal factors that
may contribute to youth’s increased
vulnerability to HIV and documents the
situation of the policy and programmatic
responses. The Egypt component of the
study involved: (1) a desk review of the
literature, laws, policies, and strategy
documents pertaining to HIV risk-taking and
health-seeking behaviors of young people in
Egypt; (2) in-depth interviews (IDIs) with key
informants and stakeholders who are
involved in programs that support youth
sexual and reproductive health; (3) focus
group discussions (FGDs) with male and
female young people aged 15–18 years, 18–
24 years and HIV-positive male and female
youth; (4) IDIs with male and female youth
belonging to high-risk groups, namely
people who inject drugs (PWID), street
children (SC), married adolescent girls
(MAGs), female sex workers (FSWs), and
men who have sex with men (MSM).
The study identified a number of social,
economic, cultural, and legal factors that
may increase vulnerability of Egyptian youth
to HIV. Poverty, unemployment, delayed
marriage and gender inequality are examples
of factors that increase young people’s risktaking
behavior and hence vulnerability to
HIV. Knowledge of HIV modes of
transmission and condom use are both very
low among the Egyptian public. Laws and
policies that discriminate against key
populations (KPs) (e.g., MSM, PWID, and
FSWs) and people living with HIV (PLHIV)
may discourage those groups from seeking
health care or HIV testing and HIV care and
treatment services. Moreover, stigma and
discrimination against PLHIV and KPs by
society and healthcare providers keep those
groups “underground.” In the meantime, the
Bio-Behavioral Surveillance Survey (BBSS)
showed that key populations were engaged
in multiple risk behaviors and have linkages
to the general population through marriage
and/or sexual relations.
HIV prevention programs for young people
are quite limited apart from awareness
raising activities that are conducted by the
National AIDS Program (NAP) and a few
initiatives that are implemented by local
NGOs with international support. Several of
those NGOs offer harm-reduction programs
whereby KPs receive health services,
counseling, and condoms/sterile syringes.
However, HIV prevention programs face a
number of challenges due to dwindling
funds, conservative social norms,
discriminating laws and policies, underutilization
of services and lack of
coordination among various stakeholders.
The report concludes with the following
policy recommendations:
 Raise public awareness of HIV and its
modes of transmission and address
misconceptions about the disease and
 Encourage parents to discuss sexual and
reproductive health (SRH) topics,
including HIV, with their adolescent
 Use appropriate communication
channels to convey information on
youth SRH and HIV prevention to
various subgroups of young people;
 Actively reach out to adolescent girls in
rural areas as they tend to be secluded
and have no access to information;
 Integrate SRH services for young people
within primary healthcare services;
 Scale up harm-reduction services for
high-risk groups into more geographical
areas and expand scope of programs to
include social, economic, and legal
empowerment of KPs;
 Revisit laws and policies that
discriminate against women, young
people, PLHIV, and high-risk groups;
 Conduct more quantitative research to
better understand sexual behaviors of
various subgroups of young people; and
 Reform national policies to achieve
more social and economic justice and to
enable young people to take greater
control over their lives.

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