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Saudi Arabia

People with HIV launch anti-stigma campaign

Several people living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have launched a campaign to counter the stigma around the illness still prevalent in parts of the Kingdom.
They want the public to treat those infected with HIV just as they would people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or high blood pressure, according to a recent report in a local publication.
Mohammad Mannsi, who has HIV, has set up an account on a social networking site to create awareness about the disease. Over the past four years he has been working with fellow HIV sufferers, doctors and other members of the public.
Mannsi has been helping those infected by providing support and advice, which include urging them to take life-saving medication as prescribed by their doctors, and to undergo regular checkups.
Mannsi said that people living with the illness are more confident about participating in community activities. However, there was still a great deal of fear-mongering taking place, with some people trying to create the impression that Islam forbids discussions on the illness.
He said people living with HIV have the right to get treatment, support and advice from doctors and other health professionals.
Batoul Suleiman, a doctor who specializes in HIV treatment, said even some doctors discriminate against those living with the virus. Some refuse to provide any sort of treatment for those who disclose they are infected.
According to the Ministry of Health, there were 1,777 people identified with AIDS in the country last year, of whom 542 were Saudis.
There has been an increase in cases, which would eventually affect the country’s economic growth, the ministry said.

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