NEW YORK: As part of their efforts to care for and protect the health of all residents, authorities in Saudi Arabia have affirmed their determination to combat AIDS and provide support for those who have the disease, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.
Mohammed Al-Ateeq, the acting charge d’affaires of Kingdom’s permanent delegation to the UN, said his country provides preventive and curative programs to tackle AIDS and prevent young people from contracting it, and is also working to remove the stigma surrounding the disease to help preserve the rights of those who have it and prevent discrimination against them.
The envoy was speaking during a plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday to discuss the ongoing implementation of the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.
In 1994, the Kingdom established its National AIDS Program, Al-Ateeq said, which included a central unit along with 20 others across all regions. The program provides services to help prevent the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in addition to health care, including treatment and psychological and social services.
He added that the program is committed to educating and informing the public, including mothers and children, about the disease, and it includes regular awareness campaigns, treatment guides, counseling services and voluntary testing centers.
One of the most prominent recent reforms in the Kingdom was the launch of an AIDS prevention system in 2018, which ensures that the rights of patients and their families are preserved, including their rights to continue education and employment, and that they receive the necessary care and rehabilitation, Al-Ateeq said.
It also places an obligation on health authorities to provide care, counseling and psychological support to patients, respect their rights, educate them on how the disease is transmitted and how it can be prevented and treated, and raise general awareness about it, he added.
The system warns against forcing a pregnant woman with HIV or AIDS to have an abortion, or depriving her of custody or care for her children because of her illness, and stresses the need to provide the necessary health care for her and the fetus, said Al-Ateeq.
He also pointed out that although Saudi Arabia has one of the lowest national rates of HIV infection, the laws and regulations of the Kingdom prohibit any act or omission that would discriminate against people with the disease, degrade them, undermine their dignity, diminish their rights, or lead to them being exploited. Al-Ateeq said failure to abide by these rules is a crime punishable by law with a fine and/or imprisonment, and an injured party has the right to pursue compensation.
He added that the Kingdom supports regional and international strategies that aim to eliminate HIV and AIDS by 2030, in line with its legislative and national frameworks and religious and cultural values.