In 2014, there were 1,222 new cases recorded, with Saudis making up 444 and foreigners 778, according to Tawfiq bin Ahmad Khoja, director general of the executive office of the GCC Health Ministers’ Council.
Khoja said that infections among people in the GCC countries is the lowest in the region, between 0.15 and 1.95 for every 1,000 individuals.
He said HIV cases are rising because of several factors, including people lacking knowledge, movement of people between large cities, drug addicts sharing needles and the influence of migrants from countries with a high incidence of infections.Khoja said the GCC health ministries have taken several precautions to counter the spread of this virus, including stopping the importation of blood from abroad, and increasing awareness campaigns especially targeting young people.
Sana Mustapha Filimban, chairperson of the Saudi Charity Association for AIDS Patients, said that a problem facing conservative Arab societies is that people are reluctant to have open discussions about HIV and Aids. This results in less social awareness and discrimination against sufferers.
In addition, many refuse to be tested because of this social stigma. This means that people may still not know the dangers of indulging in illicit sexual relations, or that it is possible for couples to pass the virus to each other and their children.
She said that people infect others without knowing that they are doing so. There was also ignorance about the medical services and treatment available for people with HIV or Aids. The current statistics do not reflect the actual level of people with the virus, she said.
She said it was important for every individual, and public and private bodies, to play their part in ensuring that the virus does not spread in the country.