MOH News
Inauguration the Saudi Forum for “Uniting Arab Countries to Combat AIDS”
30 November 2011
   Yesterday night, at the Prince Sultan Grand Hall of Al Faisaliah Hotel, His Excellency Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, Minister of Health and Chief Executive Officer of the Arab Health Ministers' Council, has inaugurated the events of the Saudi Forum for “Uniting Arab Countries to Combat AIDS”,
This forum is held under the umbrella of the Arab League, and continues for five days. It is the first forum to engage official representatives of the Arab countries, experts in the field of AIDS-fighting, as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations and activists of AIDS-fighting.
The opening ceremony started with a Quranic recitation, followed by a speech delivered by Dr. Ziad bin Ahmed Memish, Assistant Deputy Minister for Preventative Medicine, in which he welcomed the attendants, and pointed out that the forum aims to promote and enhance the Arab and international partnerships, so as to coordinate and consolidate the efforts meant to combat AIDS, in light of the current endeavors to strengthen cooperation ties with the UN organizations, and support the non-governmental organizations concerned with helping patients with HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Memish stated that the forum comes as a continuation of previous efforts, the latest of which was the Saudi Initiative to Combat AIDS in the GCC Countries, last October, through which the Arab Ministers of Health agreed to unify the national response of the Arab countries against HIV/AIDS.
Currently, Memish added, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is expanding the provision of preventive services and conducting surveillances through Voluntary Testing centers, in addition to the surveillances intended to learn about the nature of HIV prevalence among the most vulnerable people to infection, and working to diminish it as much as possible, aside from the services that have to do the safety of transfused blood, pointing out that the infection rate of HIV/AIDS has been 'zero' for many years now.
Dr. Memish affirmed that the Ministry, along with the human rights organization and commissions and the International Labor Organization (ILO), have adopted all the items of ensuring the legal, legislative and healthy environment necessary to maintain
Dr. Ziad bin Ahmed Memish, Assistant Deputy Minister for Preventative Medicine, concluded his statement by asserting that the Ministry has provided modern preventive and curative programs in several curative centers, specialized in AIDS treatment. These centers have been supplied with the most advanced equipments and the most qualified staff. Meanwhile, he emphasized that the Ministry coordinates with the relevant ministries and the charities working in this area with a view to providing best-quality services for patients with HIV/AIDS and their families. The Ministry of Health is looking forward to make available of preventive services for the most vulnerable people, Dr. Memish concluded.
For her part, Dr. Hend Al-Khatib, Regional Director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), thanked His Excellency the Minister of Health sincerely for patronizing this forum meant to discuss the outlines and necessary measures for activating the national response against AIDS in the Arab countries, with a special emphasis on studying and reviewing the situation in the Arab countries with regard to the regional and international commitments, including the Political Declaration adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2011, in addition to the measures required to be taken in order for such commitments to become discernible actions. This can only be brought about through the national strategies dedicated to AIDS-fighting, based upon the rights of those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Also, Dr. Al-Khatib confirmed the UNAIDS's commitment to the Saudi Initiative to Combat AIDS in the GCC Countries, launched by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the auspices of His Excellency the Minister of Health, last April, aside from activating the efforts aiming that this initiative would cover all the Arab countries.
Dr. Al-Khatib went on to say that this forum embodies the strategic partnership between the Arab countries, the Arab League, non-governmental organizations, and the United nations, in pursuit of combating the AIDS epidemic in the Arab countries, and conducting joint cooperation among the Arab countries to make decisive recommendations towards fostering the preventive and curative efforts exerted by these countries in AIDS-fighting and supporting AIDS patients.
Then, the renowned Islamic preacher, Sheikh Ayed Al-Qarani, delivered a speech on behalf of the civil society, in which he called for avoiding defaming patients with AIDS, and, on the contrary, supporting them, making clear that AIDS patients are members of the society, and that the doctors treating them be awarded by Allah.
Sheikh Al-Qarani has commended Dr. Al-Rabeeah's efforts, affirming that he has been showing an honorable image of the Kingdom and Islam, with all his terrific medical achievements, which have greater influence than thousands of lectures on Islam, to the end that the Kingdom has become a polestar for treatment.
Following that, Her Excellency Amb. Laila Negm, director of the Arab League Department of Health Affairs and Humanitarian Aid, delivered a word in which she thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Government and people, for embracing this forum. She also thanked His Excellency the Minister of Heath, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, for his sincere efforts aiming to foster and promote the healthcare service provided for Arab citizens, through the various initiatives and events hosted by the Kingdom.
Mrs. Negm stated that HIV/AIDS is one of the most insurmountable challenges impeding the march of development and progress in the whole world. Consequently, she stressed, it is highly important for all sectors to participate in finding exceptional and comprehensive solutions, taking into account the fact that the spread of HIV/AIDS is often attributed to difficult social conditions and problems, at the head of which is poverty.
Mrs. Laila Negm continued to say that, although there are positive indicators at the international scale, manifested in the decline of HIV/AIDS incidence, and the provision of proper medications, in addition to the progress made in diminishing the AIDS transmission from mother to fetus, the countries which are still suffering from a high incidence of AIDS are in bad need of financial and technical support.
Concluding her statement, Mrs. Negm shed light on the responsibility to be taken over by the society, so as to overcome the obstacles impeding an effective national response against HIV/AIDS. Speaking of these obstacles, she mentioned, for instance, the social stigma, discrimination, and lack of knowledge, aside from the limited participation of the civil society and private sector in the provision of proper healthcare and prevention, and the shortage of human resources.
Dr. Al-Rabeeah, under the auspices of whom the forum is held, delivered a speech in which he welcomed all participants and thanked them for attendance. According to the Minister, this forum comes as an extension of the Saudi Initiative to Combat AIDS in the GCC Countries, adopted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 6 months ago, and in light of which a conference was held in Riyadh, on April 16-18, 2011, meant to consolidate efforts to combat AIDS and limit the spread of HIV in the GCC counties.
Dr. Al-Rabeeah made clear that hosting this forum proceeds from the Kingdom's staunch belief in the pivotal necessity of early and hard work to put an end to the prevalence of HIV in the Arab societies, in addition to consolidating the efforts and policies of AIDS-fighting, and making available of the best curative and healthcare methods for AIDS patients, with a special emphasis on the access to the people who are most vulnerable to infection, and providing the proper support for them. Besides, all the sound measures should be taken to diminish the risk of the virus prevalence and lessen its serious effect on the individual and society, aside from underscoring the adoption of joint programs meant to control the incidence of the HIV, and keep the Arab countries among the least affected countries by AIDS.
His Excellency the Minister of Health affirmed that the Government of Saudi Arabia is committed to supporting the regional and international efforts in all fields, most notably AIDS-fighting. He pointed out that the Ministry of Health has adopted an extensive strategy, covering several curative and preventive areas, within the context of the ongoing and relentless endeavors to strengthen epidemiological and behavioral surveillance systems, for the purpose of understanding the prevalence pattern of HIV, as well as its environmental and biological nature in all over the world. Domestically, Al-Rabeeah added, the Ministry has also developed the proper plans, in cooperation with the relevant sectors, with the aim to provide awareness and guidance programs for those affected by the disease, and help them take over their duties towards their families and towards the society as a whole.
Dr. Al-Rabeeah went on to say that the Kingdom has shown keen interest in contributing to the reinforcement of the regional and international efforts intended to combat the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, as well as the implementation of the WHO's health recommendations and the orientations of the UN programs concerned with AIDS-fighting.
His Excellency, moreover, stressed the Ministry's keenness to adopt the recommendations of this forum, and identify the constructive and scientific measures necessary for controlling the prevalence of this global epidemic, meanwhile benefitting from the internationally successful experiences, without transgressing the peculiar culture of the region.
As his statement drew to a close, His Excellency the Minister of Health, Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, wished success for all participants, and that the conference would make recommendations useful for the Arab countries, and the whole world.
It followed that Dr. Al-Rabeeah inaugurated the exhibition accompanying the forum, encompassing a display of the activities and programs of the entities relevant to AIDS-fighting. He also introduced 4 cars to the Ministry's fleet, to function as clinics for AIDS counseling and voluntary testing. AIDS patients, accordingly, will be received, examined for free, and impelled toward the right action. This service would be available in Riyadh, Madinah, Dammam and Jazan.

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