'More awareness needed to combat HIV virus effectively'
TDT | Manama
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
Reported by Julia Cassano
The US Embassy in Manama hosted a webinar discussion where distinguished doctors discussed the treatment, prevention, and importance of de-stigmatising HIV/AIDS in Bahrain.
Guest speakers included Dr. Nada Fadul, Professor of Medicine and Assistant Dean of DEI Education Programmes at the Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Nebraska Medical Centre, and Dr. Jameela Al Salman, Head of Medical Department, Infection Control and Quality, American Mission Hospital.
Beginning the discussion, Dr. Jameela said that HIV is a global epidemic. Around 14 million people globally suffer from the disease; however, with modern technology, treatment has become more available, and education has assisted in preventing the disease.
Highlighting the Kingdom’s efforts to combat the disease, she said: "Bahrain has an orderly system that will detect the cases and begin treatment as soon as possible and when the patient is comfortable." Dr. Jameela added that to properly treat the disease, an effective system must be in place that includes follow-ups, communication, and awareness of how to treat the disease without the stigma attached to it.
Echoing what Dr. Jameela stated, Dr. Nada revealed that the world contains all the proper tools to end the HIV epidemic; however, it comes down to how the tools are implemented and if the stigma surrounding the virus can be defeated. "The implementation begins with testing," Dr. Nada said.
More importantly, she said that testing must be available and encouraged by governments and countries to properly eradicate the virus. "People must feel comfortable asking for testing, and healthcare providers must be readily available to assure the patient and properly treat the virus," Dr. Nada said.
The doctor also revealed that people who are undetectable and whose virus is under control do not transmit HIV sexually to other partners. Both doctors agreed that such information assists in de-stigmatising the virus and allows people to live a normal, healthy life. However, to effectively combat the virus, more awareness must be raised.
Dr. Jameela pointed out that Bahrain and other GCC countries have made efforts and created strategies to combat the disease in the region. "There have been tremendous achievements across the region to raise awareness regarding the virus.
Social media, educational sessions, and experts collaborating are all steps that have been taken to combat the virus effectively," she said. The stigma of HIV is a global issue, and it is one of the biggest barriers between us and ending the epidemic, the doctors said.
"If there is one idea I put forward that hindered the process towards ending the epidemic, it would be stigma," Dr. Nada relayed. However, the stigma is not just limited to the region but extends around the world.
The issue is that people fail to test themselves, even if symptoms arise, for fear of judgement. However, the doctors shared that through the increase of programmes, education, and training in the medical field, HIV can certainly be eradicated. And prevention is a big step in this direction.
To combat the disease, help and awareness on the international, country, and community scales must be implemented so that people are educated on how to prevent HIV, feel safe to get tested, and have access to the best possible treatment available.