Qatari steps to check AIDS hailed
LANI ROSE R DIZON
DOHA QATAR has made tangible progress on the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 6 and its two HIV/AIDS targets on ‘having halted and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015’, and ‘achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment for all those who need it’, an expert said on Wednesday. Speaking at the ‘Qatar Symposium on Family, the Millennium Development Goals and AIDS in the Middle East’, Dr Hussam al Soub, consultant on infectious diseases at the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) said that no new cases of HIV/AIDS have been reported in the last few years in Qatar.
He said Qatar’s HIV/AIDS prevalence was only 0.02 percent of the total population in 2007, and 0.34 per 100,000 population aged between 15 and 24 years in 2009. He said, “Universal access to treatment and preventative services for HIV/AIDS is available to nationals and expatriates alike.
Treatment with ARV is available free to all Qataris and expatriates. A national HIV/AIDS committee is already established.” He said that free treatment was being given to all HIV/AIDS patients whether Qataris or non-Qataris as long as they have resident permits.
But expatriates applying for jobs in the country, who are diagnosed positive with HIV/AIDS, are not given resident permits. The two-day symposium which was hosted by the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development (DIIFSD), in cooperation with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called for an end to discrimination against those suffering from HIV and AIDS in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Samir Anouti, regional HIV and AIDS advisor to UNICEF said, “We need a multi-sector approach involving governments, NGOs, the medical profession and religious leaders working together.
Most of the countries in the region have by now, at least national strategic plans on HIV and they are making progress.” Hind Khatib, regional director for UNAIDS, emphasised the need to end stigma and discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients in order to put targeted programmes in place.
Dr Richard G Wilkins, Executive Director of DIIFSD added, “It is important to uphold family values first and foremost to minimise behaviour that may lead to the spread of this epidemic. Most importantly, victims of HIV should live without fear of discrimination - discrimination from healthcare provision, discrimination from society, and discrimination from their families”.