(MENAFN - Arab News) The Kingdom will join the World Health Organization to observe the World AIDS Day throughout the Kingdom today, the Ministry of Health (MoH) announced yesterday.
Today marks the 25th global observance of World AIDS Day. Established by the World Health Organization in 1988, early in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, World AIDS Day is designed to bring together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic.
Through 2015, World AIDS Days will have the theme of "Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths."
The World AIDS campaign focus on "Zero AIDS-related deaths" signifies a push toward greater access to treatment for all; a call for governments to act now. It is a call to honor promises like the Abuja declaration and for African governments to at least hit targets for domestic spending on health and HIV.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. As the infection progresses, the immune system becomes weaker and the person becomes more susceptible to infections.
The most advanced stage of HIV infection is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It can take 10 to 15 years for an HIV-infected person to develop AIDS; antiretroviral drugs can slow down the process even further.
HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, transfusion of contaminated blood, sharing of contaminated needles, and between a mother and her infant during pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding.
In recent years, the focus of response to HIV/AIDS has emphasized strategies relating to HIV infection, treatment and prevention as increasingly effective medications have enabled medical care providers to slow, and in many cases prevent, the progression from HIV infection to AIDS. AIDS is diagnosed when the immune system, compromised by the effects of uncontrolled viral infection, begins to lose the battle in fighting off opportunistic infections.
According to a report of the WHO in 2008, some 33.3 million people were infected with the HIV virus, which included 2.6 million new cases in 2008 and 1.8 million death among the patients.
The information and health education center at the MoH has opened a toll free line, 8002494444, to answer queries from the members of the public on HIV and about the facilities and services offered by the government to treat HIV infected persons. Internet browsers could also access
firstname.lastname@example.org to get online information about the the disease.
An official from the MoH told Arab News that the incidence of AIDS in the Kingdom is the lowest in the region. According to MoH records, only two in 10,000 people were infected with AIDS in the Kingdom, he said.
According to figures provided by the MoH in 2011, there were 1,195 patients in the Kingdom which included 459 Saudis and 736 non-Saudis. The number was an increase of 4.5 percent over the previous year.
Last week, the MoH opened a new website, www.nap.sa.com, and launched a national strategy to fight AIDS in the Kingdom at a technical meeting hosted by the Ministry of Health in cooperation with the Arab League and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Riyadh.
The official said that the MoH has opened centers for people to get themselves tested for AIDS.
"Early and sustained treatment of infected individuals also becomes a significant tool for HIV prevention. Widely available and rapid HIV testing plays a critical role in identifying those infected with HIV and getting them into early treatment, the key to long-term survival."
Specialized centers for treatment of AIDS patients are available at the King Saud Hospital in Jeddah, King Saud Medical Complex in Riyadh( Shemaisi Hospital), Dammam Medical clinic, King Fahd Hospital in Madinah, King Fahd Hospital in Hofuf, Medical Clinic in Asir Hospital and Sabiyah General Hospital in Jazan.
Arrangements are under way, he said, to set up such centers in the holy city of Makkah too.
In its awareness campaign about AIDS, he said the MoH is interested in getting the support of the private sector organizations and voluntary bodies based in all parts of the Kingdom. "Such programs would make it easier to reach the common masses," he added.
Speaking to Arab News, Sanaa M Filemban, director of national AIDS Program in the MoH, said the Kingdom has planned a national program from 2013 to 2017 to combat the disease in the Kingdom. She also said that the new website and the national program would go together in the fight against this disease.