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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


AIDS Patients to Receive Free Treatment in Gov’t Hospitals
Raid Qusti, Arab News


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 marriage.

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 the community.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of early 2006, there were 65 million persons infected with AIDS around the world.