AIDS In Tunisia Is No Myth, Even If It's Rarely Talked About

Published: December 15, 2014

The Huffington Post
Sandro Lutyens
Original Article:

Ghalia had dressed up for the occasion.

The woman, who is homeless and HIV-positive, was participating in a press conference organized by the Tunisian Organization for the Fight Against STDs and AIDS (ATLMST) on Dec. 2, World AIDS Day. On the stage, professionals were discussing the crisis using acronyms — HIV, MSM (Men who have Sex with Men), UID (Users of Intravenous Drugs). We had to listen carefully just to follow along. Few journalists showed up.

Ghalia, who asked to remain anonymous because many of her friends and family members don’t know she’s HIV-positive, says her husband infected her in 2006. Ghalia claims her husband knew he carried the virus, but never told her. “He said it was out of love,” she explained. She says that’s how she realized he had been cheating on her.

AIDS infection rates in Tunisia are generally low. According to UNAIDS, 3,400 people are living with the virus. ATLMST says Tunisia’s Ministry of Health puts the number at 1,900.

Professor Ridha Kamoun, ATLMST’s director, credits various societal taboos for the country’s low infection rate. “We quickly noticed the link between conservative mores and a low infection rate,” he said. Others argue, however, that taboos represent more of an obstacle than an opportunity, and that the numbers could be much lower if it weren’t for those taboos.

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