Hamad Medical Corporation
As countries across the globe marked the 24th World AIDS Day on December 1, senior officials at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) launched an appeal to healthcare professionals to make greater efforts to combat discrimination against people with or suspected of having human immunodeficiency virus / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or HIV/AIDS.
2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the first diagnosis of AIDS, a virus that has now claimed more than 25 million lives and infected more than 60 million people. More than 7,000 people across the world including Qatar are newly infected each day.
Dr Abdullatif Al Khal, Consultant Physician, Clinical AIDS Program Director and Member of the National AIDS Committee said, “In our region, many people living with HIV still do not know that they are HIV-infected, or their illness is not known to us. This means that regional treatment coverage is among the lowest globally. This picture is also complicated by issues related to accessing care and the stigma often imposed by the health sector on people living with HIV. This is a great challenge for us all.”
The message Dr Al Khal and HMC Managing Director Dr Hanan Al Kuwari jointly sent to staff focused on the principle that the right to health is a fundamental human right from which flows the right of all people to have access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services, without feeling stigmatized or discriminated against in any way by healthcare professionals and their support teams.
The two officials also pointed out that as well as going against personal, cultural and spiritual values and violating basic human rights, causing stigma and discriminatory actions are the greatest barriers to achieving an effective response to the world epidemic – because people do not get the treatment and education they need.
Dr Al Kuwari and Dr Al Khal called for people to understand that HIV-related stigma and discrimination is largely due to unfounded fear that arises from misconception and ignorance about transmission of the infection, and the belief that HIV is always a fatal disease. They explained that as new therapies have been developed and introduced, HIV/AIDS is now regarded globally as a controllable chronic disease with treatable symptoms; and that people receiving therapy are very unlikely to transmit the virus to the community, and can live a full productive life, unlike in the early days of the pandemic.
Commenting on the action taken to communicate with staff on this issue, Dr Al Kuwari said, “Quite aside from the impact on the individual and their health and well-being, creating any kind of barrier to obtaining diagnosis, care and support also means that we are not acting in the best interests of the wider community to minimize the spread of the virus in the community. The right to the highest attainable level of health and quality of life for every human being is a core value in our country so this is an important message to drive home.”