World AIDS Day, which falls on Dec. 1 every year since 1988, aims to raise awareness surrounding the spread of HIV infection and those who have died from the disease. 

This year, the United Nations "voiced alarm" over the spread of HIV in Egypt, where the number of new cases has been growing by 25 to 30 percent a year. 

"There is a 25-30 percent increase in incidents every year... It’s is alarming to us because the growth of the epidemic and the discontinuation of interest from donors in funding," Ahmed Khamis, of the U.N. AIDS agency, told The Associated Press.

UNAIDS says there are over 11,000 cases of HIV present in the country. However, Egypt's Health Ministry disagrees, claiming the number is around 7,000. 

HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS, is infecting more young and adolescent people than any other age group, according to U.N. figures.

"Most recently, we’ve been seeing people of a much younger age group infected with the virus. There is a higher risk now for adolescents and youths than in the past," said Khamis, according to The Washington Post.

"We don’t have exact numbers, but this is what the evidence we are seeing on the ground is suggesting," he added.

Egypt ranks "behind only Iran, Sudan and Somalia in the Middle East," in terms of the rate at which the epidemic is spreading.

The lack of education and continuous repression of the subject has taken a toll on the efforts made to combat the disease.

"These groups are highly stigmatized, so they don't seek treatment," Lara Dabaghi, UNAIDS regional communications adviser, once told Al Jazeera. 

"Governments in the region do have treatment centres and they do offer treatment for free, but people do not access the treatment because of stigma and discrimination."


According to the World Health Organization, the transmission of HIV can only happen through: 

  • Blood, by co-use of needles, injections, cotton or transfusions
  • Sexual intercourse
  • From pregnant mothers to children

However, in Egypt, the disease is highly associated with homosexuality, adding to the social stigma surrounding the diagnosis.

A major crackdown on HIV positive individuals in Egypt took place between 2007 and 2008, which saw at least 12 men get arrested on suspicion of being HIV positive. 

"This not only violates the most basic rights of people living with HIV. It also threatens public health, by making it dangerous for anyone to seek information about HIV prevention or treatment," said Rebecca Schleifer, who works on HIV/Aids issues at Human Rights Watch, according to the BBC.

In 2015, UNHCR released a campaign to raise awareness on HIV

The crackdown on homosexuals in Egypt has intensified

Egypt's crackdown on the LGBT community has intensified in recent months with authorities arresting several individuals based on their sexual orientation. 

While homosexuality is not explicitly illegal in Egypt, according to The Guardian, police routinely arrest individuals using decades-old prostitution and debauchery laws. 

In September, Egypt's Musicians syndicate said that it will ban Lebanese indie band Mashrou' Leila - whose lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay - from ever performing in the country again. 

This happened a few days after the band appeared on stage to a sold-out crowd of 35,000 people in Egypt's Cairo Festival City. 

A day later, seven people were arrested for raising rainbow flags - which authorities referred to as the "flag of homosexuals" - during the concert. 

The individuals were detained under charges of "promoting sexual deviancy" and "inciting immorality." 

Since then, at least 70 people have been arrested in the country as part of the intense on-going crackdown on the gay and transgender community. 

In October, an Egyptian court sentenced and released 17 individuals who were arrested in October for practicing homosexuality.

Although the people were released, they are required to pay a fine of 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($285) or face three years in prison, according to Reuters.