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New app launched to fight HIV stigma in the Middle East and North Africa

New app launched to fight HIV stigma in the Middle East and North Africa

A man with a cellphone

A new tool has been launched to help fight HIV stigma in the Middle East and North Africa.

Sanadi, the Arabic word for ‘my support’, allows users to look for HIV testing centers by geolocation and by country search.

‘The initial idea was to identify centers that provide HIV testing and see if they are apt to meet the needs of men who have sex with men in the Middle East and North Africa region,’ Elie Ballan told Gay Star News. Ballan is the executive director of the M-Coalition, the only regional HIV/AIDS advocacy network for LGBTIs.

‘We consulted a public health specialist who developed a thorough tool to assess services and their effectiveness in the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region,’ continued Ballan.

He furthermore explained they contacted NGOs in six countries for their research.

‘But it was not right to keep this data for ourselves, and we knew the community needed to access it. That is when Sanadi was born.’

A map to help LGBTIs navigate the HIV services in the area

Thanks to this app, users can browse 165 centers in six countries: Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, and Yemen. Moreover, Sanadi provides indicators on the friendliness and inclusion of LGBTI in the services provided.

‘The idea is to provide our community with a tool so they can access services without discrimination. We let them know where they might be facing homophobia or transphobia and avoid these places altogether,’ also said Ballan.

The UNAIDS fast track goals to end AIDS refers to three targets 90-90-90. 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of those have access to treatment and 90% of those have achieved viral suppression.

‘Unfortunately, the MENA region is still far behind on the first 90, so we think this tool will support that by allowing people to go get tested more often,’ Ballan added.

‘We have a lot of barriers to overcome specifically around stigma. We only hope that we can do a small part in making our community more aware of their health, get tested more often and receive services stigma-free.’

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