KSA marks World AIDs Day

Updated 01 December 2012

KSA marks World AIDs Day

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 [email protected] 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.


Blessing in disguise: How pandemic was a catalyst for Saudi SMEs to change

Saudi Arabia’s consumer behavior was transformed during the lockdown as soon as malls and stores were ordered to shut their doors, creating a frenzy among consumers. (SPA)
Updated 20 September 2020

Blessing in disguise: How pandemic was a catalyst for Saudi SMEs to change

  • E-platforms played a crucial role in SMEs’ survival
  • COVID-19 transformed people’s shopping habits

JEDDAH: Saudis continue to shop online despite the government easing the COVID-19 lockdown, with the surge in e-commerce prompting small and medium-sized enterprises to adapt.

E-commerce saved global retail markets from collapse and stopped consumers from having to go out during the first wave of the outbreak. However, SMEs were the most vulnerable to the pandemic’s consequences and e-platforms played a crucial role in their survival.
Saudi Arabia’s consumer behavior was transformed during the COVID-19 lockdown as soon as stores were ordered to shut their doors, creating a frenzy among consumers although they were quick to adapt. SMEs were also forced to adapt, not only to accommodate the growing demand for online shopping but to ensure they survived with minimal losses.
Marion Janson, the chief economist at the UN’s International Trade Centre, said in June that around 20 percent of SMEs globally may not survive the pandemic.
A recent report from Visa revealed increased anxiety among merchants in Saudi Arabia, with 67 percent of small businesses noticing a decrease in average consumer spending.
Many Saudi consumers started shopping online for the first time, primarily for essentials. The Visa report showed that two-thirds of the Saudi consumers surveyed said that COVID-19 led to their first online grocery purchase, while 59 percent made their first online purchase from pharmacies.
“With the confusion at the beginning, we didn’t know what was acceptable and what wasn’t,” said Dr. Suhad Zain, a government employee in Jeddah. “Can we risk going out to shop for our daily needs or not? We needed to be sure that everyone in the house was safe, including the driver, and not expose ourselves to the invisible menace that changed our lifestyles. Most of our groceries were obtained online, from produce to water bottles to even appliances and leisure items. It had to be done, even though we needed time to accept the new change.”
Fear of the virus is expected to change the way consumers behave forever. “It became more convenient even after the lockdown was lifted,” Zain added. “After a few months we got used to it and, as a family, it became our new preferred means of purchase.”
Such conditions were a catalyst for online commerce, according to the Visa report, with 38 percent of merchants in the country reporting the introduction of online offerings as a direct result of the pandemic while more than half had an e-commerce presence before the pandemic.

Two-thirds of the Saudi consumers said COVID-19 led to their first online grocery purchase, while 59% made their first online purchase from pharmacies. (GettyImages)


The report also said there was a surge in e-commerce, a preference for trusted brands, a decline in discretionary spending, and a polarization of sustainability. Consumers have a larger basket, but reduced shopping frequency, and will shift to stores closer to home. A change can easily be detected in Saudi consumer behavior.
But the shift to online commerce, with cash transactions being replaced by digital payments, has negatively influenced cash-only retailers and presents a tough challenge to these merchants, who have to understand the shift in consumer behavior and adapt accordingly and urgently.
“Saudi business owners currently face multiple challenges that they need to deal with when they want to shift to e-commerce, some of them even lack the knowledge of how technology could benefit them and what options it could offer,” Talal Abdullah, a business development and marketing consultant, told Arab News.
“Also some will need to find a technical partner to successfully transform to e-commerce and, most importantly, they need to revisit their business model canvas to determine how they want to employ this technology for the best of their businesses.”
In order to overcome these challenges, Abdullah suggested that business owners look for the right technical partner based on their new model.
“If they fail to find a suitable technical partner, then they need to set a clear budget for the application or website they need to set up. But before reaching out to any company that offers support with these technical services, you must get in touch with real clients of these companies and inquire about their business and how they deal with them.”
He added that seeking assistance from technical consultants or owners of similar projects could cut down on time and effort. Joining business accelerators and incubators, as well as entrepreneurship and technology communities, could help with expanding knowledge and relationships and contribute overall to a smoother transition.
But these changes have their costs too, imposing new financial burdens on an already weakened business due to the pandemic and the time required to build and adapt a new business model that targets a completely different group of customers. It is a serious challenge for many small retailers.
Abu Mohammed has been in the retail business for 20 years. He used to have frequent customers who came in for a specific type of clothing with a certain price range. But, with the lockdown, he could hardly sell anything.
“I began targeting a different kind of customer in the past couple of years where I was importing new clothes and selling them through Instagram and e-commerce websites,” he told Arab News. “However I still cannot completely substitute my current store with a completely virtual one. That needs time and money to build a reputation.”
He said the lockdown had been a harsh experience for him and that he recognized the need to expedite his old plans to transform his store into an actual brand, since people were gradually moving toward online shopping from well-known brands.
“This transformation is not going to be easy at all,” he added. “It will need a good marketing plan and well-spent money not only on tools but also staff. It is a completely new experience, however. I know e-commerce is here to stay and it is our only way forward. Otherwise my work for years will gradually vanish. This crisis could be a blessing in disguise, who knows.”