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HIV/AIDS: Stigmatization and Government Policy in Morocco

With the first identified case in 1981 in the United States of America, the human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV) and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) became an increasing problem because of denial, stigmatization, and inaction. In the 1980's, HIV/AIDS was a death sentence for any who had it. Today, while treatments have improved, HIV/AIDS remains a serious social epidemic. Misconceptions, particularly that homosexuals or prostitutes are the only groups affected, have contributed to an increase of HIV/AIDS cases throughout the world. Many forgo testing because they do not fit into these stigmatized categories and they do not believe it is possible for them to have HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, people with HIV/AIDS are discriminated against in the workplace, education system, and government services.

NGOs and governments alike have battled these social problems by expanding HIV/AIDS education and improving the lives of affected populations. Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries, however, have approached HIV/AIDS differently. Even though these countries, which comprise 5% of the world's population, represent only 1% of the world cases, the region has experienced an increase of HIV/AIDS cases. Governments in these countries have not acknowledged the issue or monitored high-risk groups. Public discourse in the Middle East rarely addresses sexual health issues, exempting governments from taking action.

Compared to other MENA countries, Morocco has taken a promising approach. Since the 1990s, the Moroccan government, in conjunction with NGOs, has worked to battle the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS. This is largely due to political, cultural, and economic changes during this decade, such as improved relations with the West and the role of a new monarch. Morocco is an example of a MENA country that has reduced the stigmatizations of people with HIV/AIDS.

While many reports focus on the spread of HIV/AIDS in Morocco, none emphasize the social context of the disease. Furthermore, none explain why Morocco implemented changes in the early 1990s, or why it was one of the first countries in the MENA region to do so. This paper will provide an integrated approach of detailing Morocco’s history, political systems, and culture in regards to HIV/AIDS, detailing when, how, and why Morocco changed.

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