Egypt’s First HIV-Positive Activist Fights Ignorance, Fear In His Homeland

By most measures, Maged El Rabeiy is an unlikely hero: But at a conference last summer this wiry, unassuming Egyptian with a degree in literature stunned his countrymen when he became the first person in Egypt to publicly announce they were HIV-positive.

Unlike Magic Johnson, whose similar announcement in 1991 helped attract empathy and awareness, Maged, 32, was further isolated after sharing his status:  “In other countries, you can openly say you have HIV, and then go to a hospital and be treated and provided with services: in Egypt, you cannot,” Rabeiy tells Egypt Independent. “Here your community will shun you, and most of the doctors won’t work with you, as they’re afraid of the virus, and the nurse will ask you to leave. So you have to stick to a small network of people out of the limelight, and I knew that nothing was going to improve that way.”

Rabeiy, who was already active in AIDS awareness when he disclosed his status, has been busy ever since. He is a prominent speaker on the conference circuit and was recently awarded Germany’s Annemarie Madison Award, which honors special service in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Despite the fear and insults he faces in his homeland, Rabeiy says opening up about having HIV has shown him who his true friends are: “On a personal level, it has changed everything, because I know that the people who love me accept me for who I am, and not because of a lie.”

And though he might not seem appreciated, he soldiers on knowing that he is doing the work he was meant to do. “I don’t know how long I will be alive but I hope that I have opened the door in Egypt for children of the future to one day say, ‘I am an Egyptian with HIV. Here I am, and I also deserve to live equally.’”


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  • Rock Star

    Maged El Rabeiy is a hero but he needs to watch his back in that country. We here in the USA have our rednecks but out there in Pharaoh land they got some real whackos. Good luck Maged. Good luck with your long struggle for equality.


    For all of you guys in Egypt! be strong cary on and don`t fear!. We are with you all the way and it`s not going to be ease. Love to you all from me AdamHomo.

  • hivinegypt

    I have known Maged personally for the last 6 years as I have been HIV+ for the last 30 years myself. Everyone outside of Egypt makes a hero out of him but nothing could be further from the truth. He only confessed to being positive because he was paid for doing so, (he comes from a slum near Alexandria and used to cry his heart out to me when he first found out)

    After he joined the NGO that was founded by myself and some others, he managed to become financial secretary and siphoned the NGO’s funds to his own benefit, buying a luxury appartment in Alexandria, He also had casual unprotected sex like a bunny on cocaine. At the We were all frustrated by his conduct and the missing funds and most of us left the NGO prefering not to participate any more in any activities that had become tiresome and meaningless.

    Now Maged is in the US after attending the New York Aids Summit of 2012 and asking for Asylum in the US. He will not be missed by anyone here while we try to reorganise our NGO whose funds he has taken with him

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