UNAIDS Executive Director visits Lebanon
29 September 2009
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé concluded an official visit to Lebanon on 29 September. Mr Sidibé recognized and supported the country’s achievements in the HIV response and efforts to target key populations at risk of HIV. He also welcomed the Government of Lebanon’s strong commitment to introduce oral substitution therapy into the country’s public health system.
Mr Sidibé met with the Director General in the Ministry of Public Health, Lebanon, Dr Walid Ammar, and commended the government’s initiative to scale up its harm reduction programme. He stressed the need to expand prevention and treatment efforts among key populations affected with HIV in order to achieve universal access goals.
Mr Sidibé also met with the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Mr Bader Al-Dafa, to discuss approaches to prevent escalation of the HIV epidemic in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, focusing on gender, socio-economic, marginalization and other factors which increase vulnerability.
I encourage more openness in communicating about AIDS issues.
Let us all work together without judgment or discrimination for people living with or at risk of HIV
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director
Mr Sidibé emphasized the priority of keeping HIV prevalence low in the region, “for low prevalence to continue, I encourage more openness in communicating about AIDS issues. Let us all work together without judgment or discrimination for people living with or at risk of HIV,” said Mr Sidibé.
Recognizing the pivotal role of civil society in the HIV effort, he also met with representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country. These included Helem Association, the first organization working with men who have sex with men (MSM) in the region as well as Soins Infirmiers et Developpement Communautaire (SIDC) which has implemented outreach and HIV prevention for MSM. He also met with Vivre Positif, which works towards ending discrimination and stigmatization towards people living with HIV.
Lebanon’s national AIDS programme has recently introduced 19 voluntary counselling and treatment centres that target key populations and are managed through NGOs. The country also recently launched a centre for antiretroviral distribution along with the provision of psycho-social support for people living with HIV.
According to UNAIDS 2007 estimates, Lebanon is a low HIV prevalence country with a total of 2900 people living with HIV. High mobility and migration levels are important drivers of the epidemic, with 45% of notified HIV cases up to 2004 being linked to travel abroad. Lebanon is among the few countries in the region that has accounted for specific strategies to target each of the key population groups.
Mr Sidibé's visit to Lebanon also included his participation in the Jeux de la Francophonie, of which UNAIDS is an official partner this year.