An Algerian health organisation issued a warning that thousands of people may be unknowingly infected with the AIDS virus necessitating more testing and prevention strategies.
"The epidemic of HIV/AIDS is progressing at an alarming rate in Algeria," said Scander Abdelakader Soufi, president of the Association to Fight Sexually Transmissible Diseases and AIDS (AnisS), on the eve of World AIDS Day.
"Thousands of people are infected without knowing it," Dr Soufi said, adding that large-scale tests were needed, along with a public information campaign and psychological and socio-economic measures to help the sick.
Algeria had 4,084 HIV-positive people at the end of October and 1,011 people who had developed AIDS, according to official health ministry figures cited by Soufi's non-govermental organisation.
But "according to more realistic estimates," 21,000 people are infected by HIV/AIDS, AnisS reckoned. Soufi told a press conference at a forum organised by the daily El Moudjahid that the figure is "rising sharply every year."
"We have to act now, while Algeria has a low rate" of HIV-AIDS, noting that there was "a general decline in commitment" to fight the disease, Soufi said.
The executive director of the National Foundation for Medical Research (FOREM), Dr Abdelhak Mekki, bemoaned a lack of funds for assocations working in this sector, in a country "where two-thirds of the population is under 40."
Mekki called for further cooperation with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is in the forefront of the battle against the killer diseases, and stressed the role that civil society can play in dealing with HIV-AIDS by handing out condoms and holding meetings among young people.
"It's unthinkable that there is no discussion between parents and their children on sexual education. Yet young people surf the Internet, which whets their appetite," said Algerian rap star Lofti Double Kanon, who is a member of AnisS.
The musician said he had "learned wih horror that they don't know about using condoms".