Bahrain plans 'secret' Aids centres
Manama, January 28, 2008
A string of anonymous Aids testing centres may be set up in Bahrain, to reach hundreds of people who may be infected without being aware of it.
There are 139 known Bahraini HIV or Aids sufferers, but trends suggest more than 200 others may also be infected but are as yet unaware of it, say experts.
Now health officials want an anonymous screening programme, to remove the barriers of fear and social stigma.
Last year, 10,000 Bahrainis were declared free of HIV and Aids in pre-marital tests, but officials want nationwide checks.
A plan to encourage Bahrainis to be tested for HIV and Aids without revealing their identities is being studied by the Health Ministry.
If approved the initiative will help the ministry compile accurate statistics and also treat new Aids and HIV cases.
National Sexually Transmitted Diseases Programme manager Dr Somaya Al Jowder said some people were reluctant to be tested for HIV and Aids because of the discrimination and stigma still attached to these diseases.
Therefore, it is vital that the ministry establish a system that encourages those who want to remain anonymous to come forward and have their blood tested for HIV and Aids, she said.
Officials are studying a proposal to establish centres in each of the governorates, where people could get tests without giving their name and CPR numbers.
'The World Health Organisation recommended each country have centres where people can be checked anonymously, but we have not yet agreed on this,' Dr Al Jowder told the Gulf Daily News.
'At the moment we don't have this service, I am working for it and will go ahead when I get the green light from the Health Ministry.
'My plan is to have a centre in each governorate, but I will start with one in Manama to see if people come forward and if successful I will expand it to other areas.'
Dr Al Jowder said she hopes to establish the Manama centre later this year, which will be the second of its kind in the Gulf. The first was opened in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, last year.
At least 300 Bahrainis have been diagnosed with HIV or Aids since 1986.
Of the 150 with Aids, 110 have already died from the disease and of the 150 with HIV, 51 have died.
At present there are 139 Bahrainis living with HIV and Aids and most of them are aged between 29 and 39.
'This is what we know, but we estimate about 200 more have the disease but aren't registered. That's why we need to make the test for them,' she said.
Expatriates who are diagnosed with HIV or Aids are deported, she said.-TradeArabia News Service