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Fight Against Aids Picks Up Speed

Like the rest of the world’s countries, the Sultanate yesterday organized a function to celebrate World Day under the theme of ‘Universal Access and Human Rights for all people living with ’. The event was held under the auspices of Zahir bin Abdullah Al Abri, undersecretary at the Ministry of Justice, on the Oman College of Law premises.

In order to create awareness and fight Aids throughout the world, World Aids Day was embarked in 1988.

During the event, Zahir bin Abdullah Al Abri praised the efforts taken by the Ministry of Health to combat /Aids. “The Sultanate, unlike many countries of the region, deals with the disease by revealing data of infected people, which indicates the sincerity in dealing with the subject,” Al Abri said.

He also highlighted the importance of confessing to the partner in case if an infected person is willing to get married. “In case if infected males or females are willing to get married, they must confess to the other party about the disease. Otherwise, the disease will be transmitted to the partner and probably cause social problems in the future,” Al Abri pointed out.

Representing MoH, Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Saidi, undersecretary for health affairs at the Ministry of Health, appreciated the praise from United Nations Programme on Aids and World Health Organization in paying tribute to the Sultanate’s sincerity in exchanging information about the epidemic and the efficiency of its National .

On the importance of marking World Aids Day, Al Saidi said: “It is a good opportunity for global solidarity and follow the international efforts in the context of containing the Aids pandemic, which threatens our world. This is also an opportunity for international institutions, regional and national programmes operating in the field of anti-Aids programmes to review and evaluate its activities during the whole year, and to develop frameworks and strategies for next year.”

During last year, the events that were organized to mark World Aids Day, touched around 1,129 in the Sultanate. More than 19,000 people participated, mostly young people.

Dr Jihane Tawilah, WHO representative in the Sultanate, pointed out that the country had made a commitment to the Millennium Development Goals in the year 2000 to halt the spread and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/Aids by 2015. “We are now only five years away and far from reaching the halt. The number of newly-reported cases of HIV has increased in Oman by 38 per cent since 2000. This past year alone, 116 new cases of HIV infections were reported by the Ministry of Health, which makes it the highest annual number reported since 1995.”

“More than half of the people living with HIV in Oman are those aged 20-35 years. It is likely that they were infected much earlier, meaning that risky behaviour starts very early, in adolescent years. This also is not new information. We know what must be done to protect our youth, so let us do it,” Jihane said.

Dr Jihane Tawilah also informed of the recent news about the progress made in the fight against Aids and in the care of the people living with HIV/Aids. “HIV infections have recently been reduced by 17 per cent worldwide. Significant progress has been also made to ensure universal access to treatment for people living with HIV both globally and in the Eastern Mediterranean Region,” she said.

About four million HIV-positive people had access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in low- and middle-income countries in 2008. This is a 36 per cent increase in treatment coverage compared to 2007 and a tenfold increase over five years, Jihane informed.

She also said that fewer children are born with HIV. In 2008, 45 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV received antiretrovirals to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus, up from 10 per cent in 2004 and now more than four million people are on ART treatment.

The significant progress is a breakthrough in the history of Aids since its inception. “However, despite these gains, some other facts remain staggering. Globally, over 33 million people living with HIV; more than 90 per cent are adults in their productive and reproductive prime.

Global coverage of ART is still low, reaching only 42 per cent of the estimated 9.5 people who need it,” she added.

Till date, the world’s leading infectious killer HIV/Aids has killed more than 27 million lives. An estimated two million people die every year, while more than two million children are living with HIV/Aids and almost 1,200 children become newly infected with HIV every day.

Data released by UNAIDS and the WHO highlights that beyond the peak and natural course of the epidemic HIV prevention programmes are making a difference.

According to 2009 Aids epidemic update, new HIV infections have been reduced by 17 per cent over the past eight years.

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