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Over half of HIV-infected Moroccans report still grappling with heavy social stigma

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More than one-fifth of Moroccans infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), namely 22.9%, refrained from seeking medical help out of fear of being stigmatized and discriminated against, says a new report shared by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection on World AIDS Day 2023.

Over half of the infected individuals with HIV (53.8%) reported having experienced stigma.

The Ministry of Health aims to decrease the rate of people who deny or delay seeking medical help out of fear of stigma or discrimination to no more than 15% by 2025 as well as fewer than 10% by 2030.

In addition, the respective ministry envisages reducing the rate of individuals diagnosed with HIV without their consent to less than 3% by 2025, with a long-term objective of eliminating this occurrence entirely.

In 2022, roughly 8.5% of individuals contaminated with HIV reported experiencing virus-related discrimination.

In this regard, the Ministry has introduced the national integrated strategic plan to combat AIDS, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections for the year 2024-2030.

This strategic plan is envisioned to achieve a 90% decrease in new HIV infections and a 90% drop in HIV-related mortality rates.

The Ministry also aims to cut new hepatitis C cases by 60% and deaths by 65% by 2030.

As for tuberculosis, Morocco plans to reduce mortality rates by 60% and incidence rates by 35% by 2030, compared to the figures in 2015.

It is expected, as a result, that the rate of individuals contaminated by HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C to be no more than 10% by 2030.

The plan heavily relies on prevention, accounting for 31%, while testing and treatment make up 41%. As to national response governance, including combating discrimination and promoting gender inclusivity, it constitutes 22%.

By 2030, healthcare coverage is expected to allow HIV detection in 1.6 million people per year, including 600,000 pregnant women.

In addition, 165,000 individuals from key populations are expected to benefit from integrated prevention services, whereas 95% of key populations are anticipated to receive a comprehensive range of interventions targeting HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections.

The plan also includes provisions for alternative methadone treatment for 4,000 drug users and antiretroviral therapy for 21,500 individuals living with HIV.

It also includes screening for hepatitis C in 2.5 million individuals and direct-acting antiviral drug coverage for 10,500 people.

Morocco received over $160 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria to help the country combat HIV, tuberculosis, and Covid-19.

On its part, the Kingdom contributed 1.3 million to the fund, making it the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to make such a contribution.

Until 2021, official data in Morocco showed 23,000 HIV cases, with 64% of cases asymptomatic, predominantly concentrated in regions such as Souss-Massa, Casablanca-Settat, and Marrakesh-Safi.

Over 75% of the cases in Morocco stemmed from unprotected sexual encounters, emphasizing the importance of the integration of comprehensive sex education into school curricula for youth awareness and safety.

Morocco witnessed a 0.08% decline in HIV transmission over the last decade, but 830 new infections were documented in 2021, mostly affecting high-risk groups and leading to 387 HIV/AIDS-related deaths.

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