Posted on December 01, 2015

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has joined the rest of the world in observing the World AIDS Day in demonstration of its support for people living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immune-deficiency syndrome (AIDS). World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with the virus and to commemorate those who have died from AIDS. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and was first observed in 1988.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV continues to be a major global public health problem, having claimed more than 34 million lives since the start of the epidemic. According to WHO, 1.2 million people died in 2014 from HIV-related causes globally. “There were approximately 36.9 (34.3–41.4) million people living with HIV at the end of 2014 with 2.0 (1.9–2.2) million people becoming newly infected with HIV in 2014 globally. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with 25.8 (24.0–28.7) million people living with HIV in 2014. Also sub-Saharan Africa accounts for almost 70% of the global total of new HIV infections.

HMC’s Head of Infectious Diseases and AIDS Program Manager, Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, said HIV spreads mainly through physical contact during intercourse or by sharing injection needles with someone who has HIV. “Certain body secretions and breast milk from HIV-infected persons can transmit the virus. These secretions must come in contact with mucous membranes (linings found inside the male and female genital tracts and the mouth), damaged tissue, or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur.”

According to Dr. Al Khal, the main mode of HIV transmission in Qatar is through intercourse with HIV-infected persons without knowing that they are infected. He said despite Qatar having a multi-ethnic and diverse population, HIV incidence in the country has remained relatively low partly due to its National AIDS Program which implements early surveillance and treatment strategies. “As a country committed to the well-being and good health of its population, Qatar has put in place a National Aids Program focusing on raising awareness of the virus as well as providing comprehensive care to affected individuals residing in the country,” said Dr. Al Khal.

He explained that under the program anyone living in Qatar and diagnosed with HIV infection is given the appropriate counseling and the most advanced treatment available. “Once a person is diagnosed with HIV, he/she will be provided with a holistic care to ensure their immunity is preserved and that their condition does not deteriorate into AIDS thus avoiding opportunistic infections and other complications,” explained Dr. Al Khal adding that all persons with HIV are treated equally and their confidentiality is respected.

He noted that HIV infection is often diagnosed through rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), which detect the presence or absence of HIV antibodies. “Most often these tests provide same day test results; essential for same day diagnosis and early treatment and care. These tests are readily available in the private and public sectors and all persons who think that they were exposed to the infection are encouraged to go for testing since early treatment can prevent deterioration in the immune system. 

Dr. Al Khal reiterated that there is no cure for HIV infection. However, effective treatment with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can control the virus so that people with HIV can enjoy healthy and productive lives, and can potentially live their full lives he added.

Categories: