Today is World AIDS Day - Doctors of the World

Today is World AIDS Day

Since 1983 when HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was first identified, an estimated 70 million people have contracted the disease. 35 million have died.

In 1987, Doctors of the World opened the first free and anonymous health center for HIV sufferers in France

At the time, the prevalence of the disease was largely unknown. We have been active in the fight against HIV/AIDS ever since. Eastern and Southern Africa account for 43% of new HIV infections globally. In 2016, 19.4 million people were living with HIV in the region – more than any other region in the world.

Despite the progress made to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region, in 2016 alone 790,000 new HIV infections were diagnosed in eastern and southern Africa. The work of our teams on the ground, and that of other NGO’s working on these issues, remains critically important.

On #WorldAIDSDay, we want to pay tribute to our past and present HIV/AIDS patients around the world. We also want to highlight some of the work our teams are doing in the region in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania.


There are an estimated 300,000 drug users in Tanzania, many of whom reside in the capital Dar Es Salaam

Around 67% of users suffer from AIDS, with 1 in 3 testing positive for HIV or hepatitis. In Dar Es Salaam, Doctors of the World supports 4 centers that see up to 200 people a day. The centers provide screenings, clean needles, psychological support and referrals to health facilities. We also operate out of mobile units to reach more isolated users.

With over 1,400 kilometers of coastline, Tanzania acts as an entry point for illegal drugs into Africa. This has significantly increased the accessibility and consumption of drugs, such as heroin, throughout the country in recent years. As a result, transmission of diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, through infected syringes has spiked.

An injecting drug user in Dar Es Salam.

One of our team members, Ramson, is a prior drug user. Born in Dar Es Salaam in the poor neighborhood of Temeke, Ramson was 29 when he first tried heroin. “It was a mixture of tobacco and brown heroin from Pakistan,” he describes. “After that I smoked regularly for a decade and in 1999, I started to inject.”

For years, Ramson injected heroin several times a day, often sharing his needle with other users. “In 2000, I contracted Tuberculosis twice. After that I agreed to get tested for AIDS.” Ramson found out he was HIV positive in 2005, and with the support of our centers has been on antiretroviral medications ever since.

“It was a mixture of tobacco and brown heroin from Pakistan, after that I smoked regularly for a decade and in 1999, I started to inject.”

Ramson, DotW staff member at our Tanzania project


Doctors of the World has been working in Kenya since 2012

Our team of medical staff, mental health professionals and community outreach workers has conducted educational workshops in Nairobi, Kenya specifically designed for drug users to raise awareness about the risks of HIV and how it is transmitted. 

Kenya has one of the highest percentage of drug users globally, and this vulnerable community is often marginalized and unable to access healthcare. As a result, drug users are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic


Malnutrition - Kenya

An estimated 36%, or 1 in 3 drug users in Nairobi, have HIV. Many users do not have access to sterile needles and are unaware of the health risks associated with drug use.

At our health centers, our teams work with drug users to advise, offer psychological support, and provide clean needles to prevent further transmission of HIV. Patients can also be screened for various diseases, receive vaccinations and obtain referrals to other health facilities. In 2016, we saw almost 700 patients a month at our centers. We also operate a mobile unit in order to reach those who are unable to visit our centers.

Click here to learn more about our work in Africa.

The Numbers Behind The World HIV/AIDS Epidemic


Children contract the disease every day

1.8 million

People contract HIV every year


Of people with HIV are undiagnosed

HIV/AIDS In Eastern & Southern Africa


New HIV infections in 2016


People died from AIDS related illnesses in 2016


Children living with the disease in the region

Photography © William Daniels, Agnes Varraine Leca & Jelle Boone