Abu Dhabi Although HIV/Aids is relatively under control in the UAE, with only 35 reported cases last year and an infection rate of less than 1 per cent, fighting the syndrome remains a top priority of the Ministry of Health, a senior official told Gulf News.

On the occasion of World Aids Day yesterday, the ministry organised workshops and awareness events at various schools and universities across the UAE.

For years, the ministry has coordinated with the Islamic Affairs Authority to encourage imams to speak about the condition and so combat stereotypes about HIV/AIDS.

Dr Nada Al Marzouqi, Manager of the National HIV/Aids programme, told Gulf News that during the past two years the ministry had worked hard to correct misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted. "HIV is not transmitted through cutlery, cups, pools or toilets. It's transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, sharing of needles and contaminated blood products," said Al Marzouqi.


Regulations are also being drafted by the ministry to help secure the rights and privileges of HIV patients.

"The draft will suggest regulations that will help to secure the rights of HIV patients who have the right to work and go on with their lives normally. People should not stereotype and make assumptions about HIV. Not all HIV patients have done something wrong, most of them are victims," stressed Al Marzouqi, who also confirmed that a condition like hepatitis B is more infectious than HIV.

"People accept patients infected with hepatitis in the workplace, but that virus is much more infectious," she explained.

At present, guidelines call for anyone who suspects that he or she may be infected with HIV to be tested and then seek counselling if the HIV test returns a positive result. Emiratis are kept under medical observation and expatriates are asked to leave the country.