Living with Aids in Morocco

Living with Aids in Morocco
3 min read
01 Dec, 2015
Blog: Moroccan Aids sufferers complain of stigmatisation and discrimination as the world marks World Aids Day.
Moroccan activists are attempting to end the stigma surrounding Aids [AFP]

The first of December marks World Aids Day, which aims to raise awareness to the dangers of HIV and show support with the million people who annually die of the disease.

The day is marked across the world, but HIV remains taboo in much of the Middle East, and Aids sufferers are routinely stigmatised and discriminated against.

"I wasn't affected by being diagnosed with HIV. What bothers me the most is how I'm treated by society," said Samir, a young Moroccan from the northern city of Tetouan. "My friends have abandoned me and people are afraid of getting close to me."

Samir is one of an estimated 32,000 people living with HIV in Morocco, who have to endure the effects of the disease on their health in addition to the unforgiving judgment of society.

"I had an intimate relationship with a girl who did not inform me that she had Aids. I found out after a while and was severely shocked," Samir told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"I started feeling my health deteriorate and when I did the necessary tests I found out that I was infected."

     She told me that she had contracted the virus while she was pregnant. I was in shock. I tried to commit suicide several times


Samir hid his condition from his family and friends for fear of being stigmatised - and when he finally decided to tell his them they reacted very badly.

"Some of my close friends supported me at first, however that didn't last long, as they began avoiding contact with me," said Samir.

Fatouma, another HIV sufferer from the southern city of Agadir, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that she does not remember suffering from any health issues growing up, however her mother would force her to take a daily regimen of medication.

"When I was older I threatened my mother that I would stop taking the medication unless she told me why I was taking them. That is when she told me that I was HIV positive," said Fatouma.

"She told me that she had contracted the virus while she was pregnant. I was in shock. I tried to commit suicide several times."

Entrenched stigma

Fatouma explained that although her mother had been infected at a dentist's surgery, the incident still change the way she viewed her mother.

"Everything changed in my life and all my dreams were ruined. I also had to breakup with my fiance," said Fatouma.

     Most wives know about their husbands' extramarital relationships but prefer to stay silent for fear of divorce and breaking up the family


Samir and Fatouma agreed to speak to al-Araby al-Jadeed in order to highlight their suffering in a society that views them as outcasts. But scores of Moroccans hide their condition for fear of being ostracised.

Nearly half of Moroccan HIV sufferers are women, with 70 percent contracting the disease through their husbands, according to the Moroccan Committee to Combat Aids.

"The high number of married women contracting HIV is due to their husbands' extramarital relationships. The husband contracts the virus and then passes it onto the wife," said Moulai Ahmad al-Daridi of the Moroccan Committee to Combat Aids.

"Most wives know about their husbands' extramarital relationships but prefer to stay silent for fear of divorce and breaking up the family. Even when they know their husbands are infected they prefer to stay silent," said al-Daridi.

According to the charity's figures, HIV is most prevalent in the areas surrounding the city of Agadir, which hosts millions of foreign tourists every year, followed by the city of Marrakech and Casablanca.

In 2013, the World Health Organisation and the Joint UN Aids Programme estimated that 35 million people around the world were living with HIV and that up to 1.5 million people died due to health complications caused by the disease.