|RIYADH, 3 December 2006 —
Health Minister Dr. Hamad Al-Manie said yesterday that
AIDS patients in the Kingdom could receive free medicine
at any government hospital.
“The ministry provides
free treatment in its hospitals for all AIDS patients in
the Kingdom,” he told Arab News. “The medicine is free
and is available at any government hospital anywhere in
the Kingdom,” he added.
The Health Ministry announced yesterday that 1,201
new AIDS cases had been discovered and reported in the
Kingdom. According to the ministry, among the new cases
reported by the end of 2005, 311 were Saudi nationals
and 890 were foreigners. It said that from 1984 to the
end of 2005, 10,120 AIDS cases were reported in the
Kingdom. Saudis accounted for 2,316 cases representing
22.9 percent of the total number while non-Saudis
accounted for 7,804 cases representing 77.1 percent.
The ministry said that according to a study done by
Dr. Tariq Madani on 6,046 cases discovered in the
Kingdom from 1984 to 2001, the city of Jeddah has the
highest AIDS rate in the Kingdom. It is followed by
Makkah, Jizan, Dammam, and then Riyadh. The ministry
also mentioned yesterday that it was seeking a mandatory
AIDS tests by the end of 2007 for all Saudis considering
The minister met yesterday with several AIDS patients
at the ministry, shaking the hands of each and listening
to their problems. A person infected with HIV told Dr.
Al-Manie that a local hospital in Riyadh had mistakenly
given him infected blood after he was involved in an
accident. The minister immediately ordered officials to
investigate the matter. A Saudi in his mid-40s said he
had gone back and forth from one private hospital to
another but that he had been refused help. “One of the
institutions told me that they could not help a patient
infected with such a disease and refused to accept my
case,” he said.
In a very moving gesture, the minister hugged a
seven-year-old Saudi child infected with AIDS. The child
has not been admitted to school because his parents
cannot afford the costs.
Dr. Al-Manie stressed the importance of Islamic
ethics as a shield to combat AIDS during his speech
following the meeting with AIDS patients. “When Islam
forbids adultery and homosexuality, it does so for the
benefit of the human spirit and a person’s welfare and
protection,” he said.
The health minister said that AIDS was one of the
most dangerous diseases of the 21st century and was
spreading all over the world. He also said that the
Saudi government, represented by the Health Ministry, is
keen on combating AIDS and has banned the import of
blood from abroad. “Despite the frightening numbers of
AIDS cases around the world, our country still has the
lowest AIDS rate,” he commented.
The minister said that both government and
nongovernmental institutions should employ AIDS
sufferers and help them become active members of
society. He said the ministry had employed several AIDS
patients in administrative jobs. “I remember seeing AIDS
patients working in the health sector in the United
Kingdom and Germany,” he said.
For his part, Salman Al-Ouda, a religious scholar,
said it was important that people understood not to be
unfair toward AIDS patients. “Many AIDS patients got the
disease from their parents and are innocent. A believer
should accept whatever good and bad his destiny brings
and be patient seeking God’s reward,” he said. “We
should not exaggerate the term ‘special society’ in the
Kingdom. We are part of the world and have problems like
any other nation,” he added.
He said that accurate figures provided by officials
in such cases were essential to combat the disease. He
also said that imams in mosques had an important role in
creating public awareness.
Dr. Sanaa Filimban, an official in the Health
Ministry, said that adolescents in the Kingdom who are
under 15 often got the disease from their parents.
“There are some cases where young people between 12 and
15 got AIDS from using drugs,” she said.
She also said that the law in Saudi Arabia did not
prohibit a child from enrolling in school, “but the
problem lies in awareness. Many school teachers
encourage students to stay away from an AIDS-infected
child and that affects his or her ability to merge into
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as
of early 2006, there were 65 million persons infected
with AIDS around the world.