Egypt Launches Five-Year National Campaign Against HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C Among Children

On Thursday, Coca-Cola (North and West Africa) and UNICEF joined Egypt's Ministry of Health and Population to launch a five-year campaign against HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C virus (HCV) among children.

Raising awareness about how HIV is transmitted remains a national priority, said Health Minister Hatem el-Gabali. Toward that end, the ministry has created an HIV/AIDS hotline, established specialized medical units, and disseminated HIV/AIDS information to all levels of government, said Gabali.

An estimated 8 percent of Egyptians are HCV-infected, said Gabali, making Egypt one of the worst-hit countries.

"Every minute of every day, somewhere in the world, a child dies because of AIDS," said Rima Salah, UNICEF deputy executive director. "And every day, there are nearly 2,000 new infections among children under 15."

Egypt's Uniting for Children Against HIV and Hepatitis C initiative aims to lower pediatric HIV cases, prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, and expand access to pediatric AIDS drugs, Salah said.

Egypt's Ministry of Health and Population has recorded 2,115 HIV/AIDS cases since 1986. While that makes Egypt's HIV prevalence low for a population of 74 million, campaigners said the number of new infections is on the rise. The World Health Organization estimates 12,000 people in Egypt have HIV.