Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- A number of prominent Saudi tenpin bowlers took part in celebrations of Saudi National Day and the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan in coordination with the national program for the eradication of AIDS, which aimed to capitalize on the celebrity status of the bowling champions to increase social awareness of AIDS. The project also sought to educate the youth in particular on how the disease spreads and to change society’s outlook on AIDS’ victims. A number of actors and singers had confirmed that they would partake in the project but failed to show and could not be contacted.
Dr. Sana Filimban, the director of King Saud Hospital and the coordinator of the national program for the eradication of AIDS in the Mecca region, said “the participation of the youth in awareness programs has pushed them to offer training to other youths to become volunteers in increasing social awareness in their own environments”.
Dr. Filimban, who is the first Saudi woman to be appointed to such a high government position, has pushed for the establishment of a real relationship between the public and AIDS victims to highlight that the disease is a general social responsibility. She said, “We operate in two ways; on one hand, to raise the morale of the patients, and on the other hand, to give different sections of society scientific knowledge on the nature of the disease to help them protect themselves and others from catching it”.
Khaled Al-Taylouni, one of Saudi Arabia’s bowling stars stressed that there has been a complete change in the approach to the disease. He said, “Our aim tonight was to reach those who are suffering because of the disease, the feeling of inferiority, and the lack of resources”.
Al Taylouni’s team mate, Faisal Al-Jerifani emphasised that “society needs to take humane responsibility and give patients back their dignity and hope in life”.
One AIDS victim, who appeared to be exhausted, smiled faintly as he gently shook hands with the professional bowlers. He told Asharq Al Awsat, “the feeling of isolation is the real death. When somebody who doesn’t know me surprises me with a smile and a visit, it gives me reason to live again. All I want is not to die alone”. The patient, who hid his face from the camera in fear of being photographed, fought back tears as he spoke. He finally added, “Today is the first day of the holy month of Ramadan and I have felt the warmth of friendliness and I am thankful for this”.
The five young men who spent National Saudi Day with patients and workers were willing to take a voluntary AIDS test as part of an initiative to spread an important message to society, especially considering that official statistics do not necessarily express the real number of AIDS victims in the country.
The group promised to organize a bowling competition, the proceeds of which will go to AIDS patients and this initiative was greatly welcomed by the national AIDS program. The project coordinators and an organizing body will arrange for the competition to coincide with World AIDS Day on December 1, 2006.