HIV Strategy project for Libya withdraws LSTM staff but remains committed to project

News article 25 Feb 2011

LSTM’s Sarah Moxon and Professor Joe Valadez have told how many of their project team has withdrawn from Libya just a few days ago, as violence erupted in Benghazi.

Until recently Sarah Moxon was in the country as part of a team providing technical assistance to The Government of Libya to finalise the development of a national HIV strategy and a programme of support. Sarah who was hearing gun  shots increasingly ring out, stayed holed-up in her apartment as violence broke out on the streets.

She said: “It happened very quickly. We didn’t really have time to register how serious the situation was. We were staying inside my flat, so only what we could hear – the sound of gun fire – was frightening, but I think at that stage I knew the best thing to do was leave Benghazi and I think I was lucky enough to leave when I did.”

“The actual scene when we left the airport in the morning was a city with a lot of burned buildings, lots of people  cramming to get petrol and supplies and graffiti everywhere.”

She said at Benghazi airport there was a sense of “tension and urgency” with people pushing to get tickets. She got to Tripoli and spent the night in the capital before leaving for Britain. She said: “When I arrived in Tripoli, it looked like I had moved to a different world. There were quite a lot of pro- government signs and people were holding posters of Gaddafi down the main street.

“I feel lucky that I was able to leave when I did.”

Project manager American-born Prof Joseph Valadez said: “We are waiting for things to resolve themselves.

“We remain committed to the mission and we’re interested in getting back to work as soon as possible.”