Muscat: A group of expatriates, especially labourers, are considered a high-risk group for contracting HIV/Aids in GCC countries, according to Asr Ahmad Toson, a United Nations Population fund (UNFPA) Representative.

“Part of our programme deals with HIV/Aids awareness, prevention and counselling vulnerable groups,” the UNFPA Representative at the sub-regional office for the GCC states said during an interaction with media on Monday.

He said that the UNFPA was trying to create a discreet awareness programme about the risks of HIV/Aids. “We are targeting particular groups using social messages,” he said without elaborating.

“We are trying to remove the stigma regarding HIV/Aids. People are afraid to come forward for testing. So we are reaching out, especially to expatriate groups,” he said.

He added that certain expatriates were identified as vulnerable. “Most of them [the vulnerable group] are here in the GCC countries without their families,” he pointed out, adding that the single labourers are tempted to indulge in high-risk activities.

“So,” the UNFPA Representative added, “we are trying to figure out the best way to reach out and do counselling.”

Toson revealed that UNFPA had already implemented a successful awareness programme with Dubai Police about HIV/Aids awareness.

In Oman, he said that they were carrying out similar awareness programmes in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Social Development Ministry.

On Oman’s birth spacing programme that started in 1994, he said: “We have asked the Sultanate to conduct a national assessment of the birth spacing programme. We are in the middle of conducting a review of the birth spacing programme in cooperation with WHO and Ministry of Health.”

“It has been successful but there’s scope for improvement,” he said in reply to a question.

Toson also added that as part of the joint effort by UNFPA, WHO in Oman, a consultant has been asked to submit a report on the birth spacing programme in Oman.

He praised Oman’s health system, particularly for infants and the children. “Oman is showcased as a model in the rest of the world by the WHO for success in eradicating polio and for its lowest infant mortality in the world,” he pointed out.

“Thanks to the efforts of the Omani government, health services have reached every corner [of the country] and are extremely accessible. It has excellent coverage,” he said.

He also said that Oman was moving in the right direction. “Oman is in the process of developing a report to capture all the development and submit it to the review committee during the Cairo international conference on Population and Development (ICPD) from June 24-26,” he said.