Yesterday’s observance of World AIDS Day was marked by experts and activists across the world calling for vigilance and increased awareness of the disease, which UNAIDS recently estimated afflicts 33 million individuals across the world. Indonesia, the Asian country with the fastest-growing HIV epidemic, chose the day to launch its first national campaign urging condom use.
Ashoka Fellow R.S. is bringing the proliferation of AIDS to the national attention of Egypt, a country which only has 8,000 people living with AIDS but also possesses a culture which avoids the topic of illness related to sexual activity, creating a high risk for a surge of HIV infection rates. To prevent the spread of HIV, R.S. has created a citizen sector organization (CSO) that arranges counseling, medical care, and legal assistance, and introduces greater awareness of the problem to the government, the Egyptian public, and existing networks of citizen organizations. Recognizing that much of Egypt’s population with AIDS were affiliated with the country’s underground sex and prostitution industry, R.S.’s organization also reaches out to sex workers, conducting legal and health awareness sessions and listening sessions, distributing condoms and encouraging sex workers to seek regular medical checkups.