Top Bahrain official urges new HIV awareness campaign
Manama, August 7, 2014
The Bahrain government ministries need to band together to help prevent the spread of HIV/Aids by providing comprehensive sex education for Bahrain’s youth, according to a prominent campaigner.
Former National Aids Prevention Committee head and MP Dr Somaya Al Jowder warned at a press conference held in parliament yesterday (August 6) that a lack of education and poverty are the leading contributing factors to the spread of the debilitating and blood-borne disease.
She said that withholding information from teenagers was dangerous as it could lead to misinformation with potentially disastrous results, reported the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
“We live in an open society now where meetings between genders can easily take place,” said Dr Al Jowder.
“Teenagers, especially between the age of 15 and 17, are most at risk.
“Parents should be open with their children and should be a source of information.”
No barriers should exist to stop a child asking questions about sex, Dr Al Jowder said.
“Of course abstinence is the best method and that is what we should teach culturally, but at any time young people can begin exploring,” she said.
“This is an issue that everyone needs to work on together, not just from one side - family, ministries, social centres and schools.”
The Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry, Interior Ministry, Social Development Ministry, Health Ministry and Education Ministry should all take responsibility for different aspects of people’s education, advised Dr Al Jowder.
“A lack of education is what leads to poor decisions which can result in awful consequences and issues for the country in the future,” she said.
“In Bahrain, children also need to be informed about drugs as 70 per cent of the HIV/Aids infections have come as a result of sharing drug paraphernalia.
“We have a National Committee for the Prevention of Aids (NCAP) that is headed by Health Minister Sadiq Al Shehabi and they should be working on things like this.
“All the different sides have a part and a role to play in improving the Aids situation.”
Dr Al Jowder explained that she had already called for greater co-operation between ministries, the Bahrain Red Crescent Society and the NCAP in order to form a co-ordinated approach to the subject.
She stressed that HIV/Aids awareness always needs to be a top priority, even if it is not widespread in the country.
“We can’t say that Bahrain is in a good place in terms of Aids infections because it can explode at any time,” said the doctor.
“Diseases don’t have borders and you can’t stop them.
“People can and do travel extensively and it can always be brought back to the country.
“As a result, people need to be educated on how to avoid it and the dangers in order to stop it spreading.”
Dr Al Jowder recently returned from the International Aids Conference in Australia, where she met 50 other MPs from all over the world to discuss the role of parliament in HIV/Aids prevention, detection and education.
The GDN reported earlier that Bahrain plans to slash HIV infections among children and drug addicts by 50 per cent by the end of the year as well as eliminate deaths among pregnant women due to Aids-related medical complications.
It comes in line with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids, or UNAIDS, global vision called “Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero Aids-related deaths.” - TradeArabia News Service