Nadia Rafif (NGO Africa Alternate Delegate) and Sara Simon (Programme Manager, Communications Facility) attended a ground breaking conference from 16-18 April 2011 in Saudi Arabia. In a rare event, the Saudi Ministry of Health hosted a conference to bring together health officials, UN agencies and civil society in the region to talk about the situation of HIV in the Gulf countries. The conference showed the lack of information there is regarding HIV in this region as well as the challenges to addressing key populations most vulnerable to HIV transmission in the area.
Some areas of frank discussion included:
?Is HIV a national problem or is it ‘imported’ via the high level of migrant workers?
?What should be done when ‘guest’ workers test positive? (Note: Deportation is the current response and testing remains mandatory before departure to the Gulf and once living in the Gulf)
?How should HIV be addressed in an Islamic culture and how can religious leaders play a role in disseminating correct information about HIV?
?How should key vulnerable population groups – men who have sex with men, people who use drugs and sex workers – be addressed when none of these populations are recognized?
?How can media be used for education and against stigma and discrimination?
?Stigma and discrimination are rampant, so what needs to be done to protect human rights?
The representatives of the NGO Delegation took part in some of the conference’s panels. Nadia spoke about the use of media and shared some best practices. She focused on ALCS experiences working with media in the field of HIV, including the production of guidelines for HIV and journalists, as well as the organization of a major awareness campaign on Moroccan TV entitled “Sidaction Maroc”.
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