Feature story

New government of Libya identifies AIDS as a priority

24 January 2012

First Deputy Minister of Health of Libya, Dr. Adel M. Abushoffa (Left) and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé

A Libyan delegation headed by the Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Adel M. Abushoffa met with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé on 24 January at UNAIDS headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The aim of the meeting was to set up the short-term priorities for the country’s response to AIDS as well as to establish the basis for the development of a strong national AIDS plan.

Libya is gradually recovering from civil war. As a result the country is spearheaded by a transitional government that has the rebuilding of social and health services among its priorities, including HIV. 

“We have important and urgent issues to tackle regarding the provision of health services to the people of Libya, including the need to deal with refugees coming from all parts of the country,” said Mr Abushoffa. “We count on UNAIDS to help us re-establish a functioning health system through an integrated approach to resolve the post crisis health situation in the country.”

During the meeting, UNAIDS offered its support and expertise to the government in defining an inclusive strategy that will bring all sectors together to effectively respond to AIDS in the country. In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS will also provide technical guidance to the government in terms of monitoring the epidemic, identifying priorities and building the government’s capacity to take ownership of the response. 

“We are encouraged by Libya’s pursuit of democracy,” said Mr Sidibé. “UNAIDS will do its part in providing solutions for the reconstruction and sustainability of the health system, helping the country provide universal access to HIV services to all it citizens.”

HIV surveillance needed

Peripheral health services in the country are hardly functioning due to shortage of liquidity, supplies and staff. The remaining functioning hospitals carry the burden of primary care and additional caseload of war wounded due to the occasional fighting still taking place. The transitional government is also faced with other immediate health challenges such as securing drug supply; disease control; information and surveillance.

UNAIDS will do its part in providing solutions for the reconstruction and sustainability of the health system, helping the country provide universal access to HIV services to all it citizens

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé

The HIV prevalence prior to the war was estimated at 0.13% based on a 2006 survey with the main mode of transmission being the sharing of contaminated injecting equipment among drug users. Mr Sidibé pointed out the importance of accurate and up-to-date HIV information in order to develop evidence-based programmes that efficiently respond to specific contexts. 

Between 2000 to 3000 people living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral (ARV) treatment before the war. Now the ARV supply has been interrupted for more than six months. Despite efforts from the Ministry of Health to procure the HIV drugs, challenges remain. The ministry of Health together with WHO has discussed the possibility to launch an appeal to get immediate supply of ARVs on loan from other countries or from drug companies. UNAIDS will coordinate the work of the UN in collaboration with the transitional government in order to re-construct the procurement and supply system of ARVs to restore the continuity of services and support to people living with HIV.