Qatar plans to kick-start a new health initiative aimed at tackling the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.
The program will be aimed at pregnant women, with testing and counseling for the deadly virus to become a routine part of any pregnancy check-up by the year’s end, according to a report in Qatar’s Gulf Times newspaper.
The aim of the program is to spread awareness and protect unborn babies.
“Pregnant women who are found to be HIV positive do have uninfected babies once all necessary procedures concerning treatments are followed strictly,” said a member of the clinical aids program at Qatar’s Hamad medical corporation, Dr. Abdullatif al-Khal Hamad, in an interview with the Gulf Times paper.
There are, however, a few cases of mother-to-child transmission, he added.
Qatar has a low incidence rate of HIV, at 0.02 percent or between five and 10 new cases yearly.
According to Dr. Hamad most HIV cases in the country are infected via heterosexual relations, with a few cases due to blood transfusions done in the early 1980’s-when Qatar imported most of its emergency blood supply from abroad.
Various government agencies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have also recommended the mandatory testing of pregnant women, and their fetus, for the HIV infection, according to the Saudi gazette newspaper.
Saudi’s ministry of health has already refused to allow about 251 marriages to occur, after pre-marital screening found either of the pair were HIV positive.