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National AIDS Control Program in Lebanon

..The HIV epidemic was introduced to Lebanon in 1984, with the 1st diagnosed AIDS case. Since then, the number of cases have been slowly but steadily rising which led the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) to establish the National AIDS Control Program (NAP) in 1989. The NAP’s main aim is to limit the HIV and AIDS epidemic, gather statistics on reported cases of HIV/AIDS coordinate with NGOs ministries, media, religious leaders, UN agencies and other key stakeholders and improve the situation of people living with HIV and limit its spread in Lebanon.
In 2018 (till November) 160 new cases of HIV/AIDS have been reported to the National AIDS Program (NAP) in Lebanon.
Distribution of cases by age shows that the higher number of reported cases is in the age group 30-49 years old (49.4%).
Gender distribution shows that 94.4% of the newly reported cases are among males compared to 5.6% for females. However global gender distribution of AIDS cases in the world is around 50%. Low AIDS cases rates among women could help limit the spread of the disease in Lebanon.
The major mode of HIV transmission is by sexual relations (98.8%). Of the total infections by sexual transmission the highest rate is among men who have sex with men 76.9 % and 9.3% non-specified which raises the question of under reporting due to fears of stigma and discrimination. The vertical transmission (mother to child) is 0.6%.
Data on high risk groups (intravenous drug users, sex workers, prisoners), is incomplete.  Data on HIV/AIDS death is unavailable.
Blood safety is well controlled in the country. No new cases of HIV infections through blood transfused in Lebanon have been reported since 1993.
Antiretroviral treatment (ARV) is provided by the Ministry of Public Health free of charge.
By the end of November 2018, the cumulative total of HIV/AIDS cases reached 2366 . .
The Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT)
VCT is an ongoing activity whereby the National AIDS Program team trains health care workers and nurses from various NGO’s, health centers and clinics on VCT service delivery. This activity is done, with the support of UN agencies including WHO and UNICEF. The workshops help to develop new capacities for VCT services, increasing the availability and spread of VCT centers all around Lebanon. The service offers:
  • Information and brochures about HIV/AIDS and STIs;
  • Pre- test counseling, testing and posttest counseling in a private anonymous setting; and
  • Referral to the needed health care and social services.
KABP Survey
KABP (Knowledge, Attitude, Behavior and Practices) is being conducted with the National AIDS Program. This new KABP survey is being organized in collaboration with UNFPA and UNICEF and executed by La Sagesse University in 2012. The aim of this study is to give a clear description of the Lebanese population in relation to the knowledge about HIV/AIDS, the prevalence of the different risky sexual practices (multiple partners, commercial sex and condom use) and the prevalent attitudes toward people living with HIV/AIDS.

Center for the Distribution of HIV/AIDS Medications
As a step towards reducing stigma and discrimination associated with People living with HIV/AIDS, the NAP opened a center for the distribution of HIV/AIDS medications; a center that is independent of the Ministry’s dispensary. The NAP dispensary team always provides a continuous follow up with the drug companies to insure continuous sustainability and availability of treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Drop in Center (DIC)

In coordination with UNODC and specialized NGO’s like SIDC, SKOUN and AJEM, the NAP opened a drop in center (DIC) to host people who use drugs especially injecting and other high risk groups. The DIC is a place where beneficiaries feel comfortable and are given awareness and education sessions. Also they can use the VCT facility that exist in the DIC and later on if needed, can be referred to more specialized services. This DIC is a pioneer in the region and Lebanon and plans are being put to later open in other geographical area in Lebanon.  

Guidelines of Opiates Substitution Therapy (OST)

As a part of the Harm reduction strategy, the final guidelines of Opiates Substitution Therapy (OST) have been agreed upon by the Ministry of Public Health and the OST team. The OST services started in 2011.the Cumulative number of people under OST Treatment is 1470 (MOPH web).

Participation in International and Regional Workshops

The National AIDS Program (NAP) is engaging in several international and regional workshops and activities as a step to build its team’s capacity and to share knowledge and experience. NAP was involved in the HARM Reduction conference in Lebanon in April 2011 by sharing and submitting a poster on its IBBS in April 2008 survey conducted among the MARPS (Most at risk population) in Lebanon. NAP represented Lebanon in the Global Human Rights on HIV/AIDS forum Geneva and also presented a poster on MARPS at the Harm Reduction Conference in Vienna July 2010 The NAP is also participating in workshops related to size estimations as a step to have a size estimation studies for the MARPS(IDU,MSM)

National Strategic Plan (NSP)

With the support of WHO , and in coordination with civil society, the National AIDS Program is currently developing a new National Strategic Plan (NSP) to fight HIV/AIDS for the coming five years. This includes all kinds of activities from prevention