Dr. Sanaa Filemban (left), Supervisor of the Immunity Department at King Saud University is seen with Dr. Sami Badawood, Director of the Health Affairs Directorate in Jeddah, Tuesday. — SG photoBy Maha Sami Aboulola
and Maha El-Shikh
JEDDAH – King Saud Hospital in Jeddah, along with various charities, held an AIDS awareness program on Tuesday to highlight infection, prejudice and treatment issues.
The event was held under the patronage of Dr. Sami Badawood, Director of the Health Affairs Directorate in Jeddah. It was also held to commemorate last year’s World AIDS Day, which took place on Dec. 1.
The one-day conference was held under the theme, “Children without AIDS” and “Getting to Zero”, which was the theme of World AIDS Day.
Matoog Sheikon, King Saud’s hospital manager, said that much more work needed to be done to inform the public about the disease. She said AIDS can be spread from infected pregnant mothers to their babies and through infected organ transplants.
Sheikon said that the Ministry of Health was working with various organizations to tackle prejudice against people living with the illness. The Ministry of Education was also assisting by running awareness campaigns at 26 schools in Jeddah, she added.
Mosa Hayza, from the Saudi Charity Association for AIDS Patients, said that Saudi charities previously faced difficulties in communicating with different sectors such as the Ministry of Health. She praised Dr. Sanaa Filemban, National AIDS Program Manager and supervisor of the Immunity Department, for helping to improve the situation.
Filemban, who was also present at the event, said that the program will educate the new generation and help ensure a future without AIDS.
Badawood said that cooperation between government and the private sector can help curtail the spread of the disease and eliminate stereotypes about those living with the illness.
There are around 2,000 HIV positive patients from 400 families in the Kingdom, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health.
Dr. Batool Suleiman, from the conference’s organizing committee, said the campaign aims to improve knowledge about the disease among the public, so that people can understand that it no longer kills people. “If the public is educated about HIV by the media and health experts there will be a greater acceptance of people living with HIV and AIDS. They will no longer be excluded from society.”