Saturday, December 6, 2008

Qatar’s Aids law to set new benchmark

Dr al-Khal... effective steps

A DRAFT law finalised by Qatar for combating the Aids virus and protecting the patients’ rights is expected to be the first-of-its-kind in the Arab world, a senior official said.
“We shall seek to make it a regional document in support of the Aids patients,” Qatar National Committee for Aids Prevention spokesman Dr Abdulatif al-Khal said on the eve of the World Aids Day yesterday.
The committee has been working with the legal authorities in the country to protect the rights of patients and incorporate that in the legal systems, he explained.
“Qatar and the committee are committed to the implementation of the expanded national strategy for the control of Aids, apart from formulating policies and programmes for assisting patients,” said Dr al-Khal, also chairman of Hamad Medical Corporation’s department of medicine.
“This is being done through the committee’s action plan, geared towards the building of national capabilities. Workshops for religious clerics and those in the media and training sessions for national leaders so as to enable them to support the efforts of the committee have been undertaken.
“We have formed work teams for study and research, supporting the patients’ rights, and one for introducing Aids awareness material in the school curricula in collaboration with Unesco,” the official said.
Planning is underway to train teachers with the objective of preparing them for educating students on issues related to Aids awareness. The committee inaugurated its website last year so as to disseminate adequate information about Aids.
Referring to the Aids scenario in Qatar, Dr al-Khal pointed out that the rate of incidence of the disease is still low, as there are only 235 cases.
“However, we must look ahead and think about how to deal early with the problem of Aids in future,” he suggested while recalling that countries which suffer most from Aids are those which were too late to react.
“In most communities, Aids has been an issue that is shrouded in secrecy as people try to avoid talking about it, considering it a taboo linked to social discrimination and shame,” Dr al-Khal said.
The World Aids Day this year comes at a critical time as there are only two years left from the target date of providing the necessary preventive, cure, care and support programmes all over the world by 2010.
The official observed that there are increasing signs that efforts and investments directed to this target are not enough.
“Despite the big efforts on all fronts, we are still facing substantial challenges that require more attendance at all levels, be it government or private sector, civil society, media and religious clerics among others,” Dr al-Khal said.