JEDDAH — About 80 Saudi women were diagnosed with AIDS in 2014, Sanaa Filimban, AIDS program director in the Ministry of Health, has said. “It was a shock to many women. Most of them did not ever leave the Kingdom and 95 percent of the patients contracted the disease from their husbands through sex,” he said.
The ministry participated in the International AIDS Day, celebrated every year on Dec. 1, by raising awareness of the disease through workshops and lectures.
Filimban said the ministry has set up 48 centers for AIDs checkups and consultancy in the Kingdom. Out of them, 36 will be stationary and 12 mobile, he said.
She added that confidentiality of the patients is paramount in AIDs centers.
“We deal with the women by giving them numbers. We don’t call them nor record their names to protect their privacy. Only their doctor knows their names for administrative reasons,” said Filimban. She added there are 21,761 AIDs patients in the Kingdom.
“Of them 6,334 are Saudis and 15,427 non-Saudis. In 2014, the program recorded 1,222 new patients. Of them 364 are Saudi men, 80 Saudi women and 778 non-Saudi women,” said Filimban.
She also said the Kingdom recorded its first AIDs patient in 1984. “Statistics show that 3 percent of the recorded patients are children and the rate of contracting AIDs through breastfeeding from an infected mother is also 3 percent. There is one Saudi woman with AIDs for every four Saudi men with AIDs. Saudi patients aged 15 to 49 constitute 81 percent of the total number,” said Filimban.
She added only 2 percent of the patients contracted the disease by taking drugs through syringes.
“AIDs is usually transferred through men and women during unprotected sex. In developing countries where most people have protected sex, homosexual sex is the most common way of contracting the disease,” said Filimban.
She added there are other ways of contracting the disease mainly by using infected equipment such toothbrushes, razors, tattoo tools. Patients can also contract the disease by going through an organ implant surgery in which the organ implanted was infected with AIDs.
Meanwhile, Prof. Tawfiq Bin Ahmed Khoja, director general of the Executive Board of GCC Health Ministers, said the rate of HIV cases among GCC citizens ranges between 0.15 and 1.95 for every 100,000 people. “This is the lowest rate in the Arab region,” he pointed out.
Khoja said the number of HIV cases among GCC citizens increased in recent years as a result of unhealthy lifestyle followed by some groups of people and lack of knowledge about the dangerous impact of the disease.
“Increasing foreign travel, important social transformations in major cities, rising use of drugs through injection and presence of a large number of expatriates from different countries are other reasons for the growing HIV cases in the GCC,” he added.
Khoja said health ministries in the member countries have taken a series of measures to contain the contagious disease, including stoppage of blood import, increasing public awareness through the spread of moral and religious values and explaining methods to protect against the virus. “We also provide HIV-positive patients mental and social care,” Khoja said.