Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- As the month of Ramadan draws near, medical authorities will start to extend their HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to include mosques, after having formerly targeted airports and markets.
The director of the national program to combat AIDS and the King Saud Hospital in Jeddah, Dr. Sana Flimban, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the campaign aims to reach the largest segment of individuals possible, both Saudis and non-Saudis alike. She added that campaign organizers had reported a positive response from the public.
Flimban pointed out that the campaign launched this summer is part of the larger program that was initiated last year following the month of Ramadan. This upcoming next phase will be put into action throughout mosques in the various cities and regions of Saudi Arabia, she said.
Since its inception last year, the program has been targeting places where masses gather, such as universities. Moreover, the program was also launched in markets and recreational centers as part of the National Program to Combat AIDS with the intention of bringing about a health awareness. Heraa International market, Ice Land Center, Mahmoud Saeed Center and al Mahmal Center were among the locations that saw the launch of this program.
We got positive reactions from the visitors in markets and recreational centers, said Salem Maati al Harbi who is a member of the medical team assigned with the task of spreading awareness. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that there was a high demand by visitors approaching the booths that were stationed in the designated areas to provide information and spread awareness about the disease.
Al Harbi revealed that many of the people present in the markets requested the provision of the necessary means to undertake voluntary medical examinations to test for AIDS/HIV. This may be deemed a success on behalf of the campaign, which was able to persuade many people to abandon their sense of shame and embarrassment. He also added that the majority of visitors had demonstrated that they had attained good background knowledge about the methods of contraction and prevention, in addition to the importance of voluntary counseling and testing (VCT).
Furthermore, al Harbi pointed out that education about the subject has contributed to allaying some of the fears concerning HIV contraction. He stressed that the campaign had succeeded in reaching target groups in the designated areas where they were operating and that it was a fast and effective means to disseminate this information.
In a statement made by Saudi Minister of Health, Dr. Hamad Bin Abdullah al Mani, he affirmed that Saudi Arabia has the lowest percentage of AIDS patients on a global scale. He said that this was owing to two reasons: the staunch faith in the Islamic doctrine and the prevalent Saudi citizens’ awareness. However, al Mani stressed that the duty fell upon their shoulders to propagate and elicit an awareness to warn people against contracting the disease.
The minister also disclosed that the awareness campaigns launched in Saudi Arabia recently were a result of the suffering endured by patients whose actions were consequently detrimental to themselves and their families.
Current statistics in the Kingdom maintain that the cumulative number of HIV cases had reached 11,520 by 2006, of whom 2,658 are Saudis and 8,852 were non-Saudis. The total ratio between men and women was estimated at two-thirds for the former, and one-third for the latter. The number of infected adults aged between 15-49 years was estimated at 79.5 percent, while the total number of infected children was 6.4 percent of the detected cases.