Providing all Algerians with access to health care was one of the priorities of the post-colonial state. The system, which has been free of charge since 1975, is relatively advanced. It includes medical faculties at the universities, as well as schools for nurses and other auxiliary personnel. The state also guarantees the availability of preventive care and treatment in remote areas. Doctors and dentists are required to serve in oasis towns or in villages on the High Plains for the first five years after their graduation, before being allowed to return to the big cities that they often prefer.
The strong growth of the population after 1962 has led to the establishment of more preventive-care centres, instead of just new hospitals. Over the years, prevention has brought a sharp reduction in infant and child mortality.
In the last decade, prevention has also included measures against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Although Algeria and the North African region are not a major risk area for the spread of the disease, it appears that it may be on the rise there. One of the factors behind this may be prostitution in the main transit towns along the Saharan routes. A more general risk is the taboos surrounding sexuality that prevail in large parts of society, especially those concerning premarital sex and homosexuality, so the government has instituted information campaigns and has opened centres for testing (anonymous and free) in many towns and cities.
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