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HIV in the time of the pandemic – a bitter reality

1 December 2021

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On World AIDS Day, we present this documentary which gives voice to people who are ‘invisibilised’, ‘vulnerabilised’ and ‘fragilised’ by the politics of inequality and injustice.

‘HIV at the time of the pandemic, a bitter reality’ is a documentary film made by Slim Kacem of ROOTS TV and Wissal Atig following an online training course for journalists in Tunisia on the theme of ‘Non-discrimination and diversity in the media’. The training, organised by Minority Rights Group from February to March 2021, aimed to provide journalists with the tools and resources to bring the voices and experiences of minorities and other groups experiencing discrimination in Tunisia to the media. Through the poignant testimonies of Fadhel Ben Mehrez (Jimmy) and Slim Ben H. A., this report gives an insight into the daily struggles of people living with HIV in Tunisia.

Although Tunisia has 25 anonymous information and testing centres, support measures for people living with HIV are still insufficient. Jimmy and Slim denounce the State’s disengagement from a real strategy of awareness, prevention and care.

They raise the alarm about the inequalities faced by people with HIV. Inequalities were accentuated during the Covid-19 pandemic: ‘During this pandemic, we are the forgotten ones of the society’, explains Jimmy to describe the situation of people with HIV since the emergence of the pandemic.

Faced with stigma and discrimination, Jimmy and Slim are fighting for a more dignified life. They point to the structural discrimination within health care institutions; surgeons must explicitly volunteer to treat HIV positive patients which results in long waiting times, refusal of care for other diseases, difficulties in obtaining treatment needed, etc., as well as differences in interpersonal communication e.g. HIV positive patients being treated with contempt and then the socio-economic injustices that specifically affect people with HIV.

Photo: Fadhel Ben Mehrez (Jimmy), Slim Ben H. A. and Wissal Atig in Tunisia, October 2021. Credit: Slim Kacem / ROOTS TV.

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