Acclaimed star Yousra lends her voice to raise awareness about women living with HIV in the Arab States region.

Date: Tuesday, February 5, 2019

UNAIDS Regional Goodwill Ambassador Yousra, Amb. Dr. Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of Social Affairs at the League of Arab States and actor Dhafer L’Abidine at the kick-off ceremony of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in the Arab States. Photo: UN Women

On the occasion of the 2018 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in the Arab States region, acclaimed star and UNAIDS Regional Goodwill Ambassador Yousra joined a kick-off ceremony organized by the League of Arab States and the Regional United Nations Gender Theme Group in Cairo, Egypt.

At the event, Yousra raised her voice against the stigma and discrimination affecting people and particularly women living with HIV/AIDS in the Arab States region. 

Yousra also spoke to renowned media expert Ahmed Ezzat as part of a series of podcasts supported by UN Women ROAS. Titled “The Hidden Women”, the podcast series aims to draw attention on women’s challenges and achievements in the region.

“Gender-based violence undermines women’s ability to engage in safer practices to protect themselves from potential exposure to HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases. These factors such as the lack of information on HIV prevention and the autonomy to use this information, dramatically increase the vulnerability of women in the Arab States region to HIV infection,” explained Yousra in an interview she gave for the podcast, on the sidelines of the event.

As discussed by Yousra in the podcast, while the Middle East and North Africa region accounts for only 2 per cent of the total estimated number of people living with HIV globally, in the past decade, the AIDS-related mortality rate has almost doubled among both adults and children in the region, alongside a worrying rise in the total number of women living with HIV. Women currently account for 38 per cent of newly-infected adults and young women aged 15-24 make up 49 per cent of new infections.

“66 per cent of the women living with HIV who took part in the latest MENA ROSA[1] study confirmed that they would have been able to protect themselves from HIV infection if they had not been exposed to, or feared, some sort of gender-based violence,” said Simone Salem, UNAIDS Regional Community Support Advisor, MENA.

“Violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of HIV infection. The subordinate position that many women and girls hold within their families, communities and societies restricts their access to information about sexual and reproductive health and their use of health-care services,” said Mohammad Naciri, Regional Director of UN Women in the Arab States. “We need to empower women and guarantee their rights so that they can protect themselves from infection, overcome stigma, and gain greater access to treatment, care and support.” He added.

World Aids Day is celebrated annually on 1 December -during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence- as an opportunity to raise awareness and campaign for universal access to life-saving services to treat and prevent HIV.

To learn more about this topic, click here to listen to the Hidden Women podcast supported by UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States.

[1] The first regional association working with women living HIV in the Middle East and North Africa.