NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia’s preventative and curative AIDS program combats stigma and discrimination, and works to preserve the rights of those infected and protect the youth and women from contracting the disease, according to the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN.
Speaking at a high-level UN meeting on HIV / AIDS, Abdullah Al-Mouallimi highlighted the Kingdom’s National AIDS Control Program, which was established in 1994 and has set up testing centers and clinical facilities in all 20 Saudi health districts.
In addition to preventative care and social services, this program provides therapeutics — including psychological treatment — and awareness campaigns geared toward reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Convened during the 77th plenary session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the meeting took stock of the progress on implementing the Declaration of Commitment on HIV / AIDS and the 2016 Political Declaration toward ending the epidemic by 2030.
Member states provided comprehensive reviews on the social, economic and political dimensions of the AIDS response and its contribution to progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Al-Mouallimi spoke of the importance of social awareness of “safe sexual relations and safe pregnancy, preventing transmission from mother to child.”
He said the Kingdom has launched policies that include treatment guides, counseling services and voluntary testing in fixed and mobile sites.
A 2018 royal decree classified AIDS as an infectious disease, upheld the rights of those infected and their loved ones, and ensured that care and rehabilitation is provided.
It also maintains AIDS patients’ right to continue their education and be able to work without discrimination.
“This made the Kingdom one of the countries with the lowest rate of HIV infections,” said Al-Mouallimi.
The UNGA meeting follows a period of negotiations between member states on the draft declaration.
Al-Mouallimi thanked the draft facilitators for considering “many of the Saudi delegation’s proposals for this year’s announcement.”
Although Saudi Arabia has always approached negotiations “with keenness to achieve consensus whenever possible (and) in a way that doesn’t conflict with our Islamic Shariah (law) and our national systems,” Al-Mouallimi underscored his “dissatisfaction with a number of highly controversial and sensitive phrases and references (in the declaration) about which we have expressed our position since the beginning of the negotiations clearly and frankly.”
He asked the UNGA that the Kingdom be dissociated from some of the “controversial” paragraphs in the declaration that “implicitly endorse the trend that condones the legislation of religiously and morally dangerous and illegal practices.”
Such trends “will delay and inevitably hinder the achievement of our global goal of eliminating AIDS by 2030,” he added.
The ambassador emphasized his opposition to the inclusion of these paragraphs in any of the UN documents, “as there’s no full international agreement on them, which will inevitably cause a major rift in the unified international position on human rights issues.”
He concluded, however, by reaffirming Saudi support for “all steps that would accelerate the eradication of AIDS,” including “regional and global strategies that aim to achieve this goal by 2030,” and the Kingdom’s “sovereign right to implement what’s consistent with its legislative and national frameworks.”
Upon its conclusion, the meeting will provide recommendations to guide and monitor the HIV / AIDS response beyond 2021, including new commitments to accelerate action to end the epidemic by 2030.