x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Attitudes to HIV and Aids probed by Ministry of Health

Minister launches awareness campaign for young people yesterday ahead of the study.

The Ministry of Health is planning the country's first major study of attitudes towards HIV and Aids.

Conducted with the help of the UN children's fund, Unicef, and the UN Development Programme, the study will aim to discover how much students already know about the nature and scale of the disease.

The Minister of Health, Dr Hanif Hassan, saying that Aids was not a "serious problem" in the UAE, launched a campaign yesterday to raise awareness ahead of the study. He said young people were the most vulnerable group, which was why they were being targeted.

According to Samir Anouti, the Unicef regional adviser on HIV and Aids, the study will be complete by the end of March.

He said: "We have interviewed students from the Dubai Men's College, the American University of Dubai and the University of Sharjah. Currently we are still analysing data," he said.

A UN report in May said 636 UAE nationals were living with HIV last year.

At yesterday's campaign launch at the American University of Dubai (AUD), students said they were glad to see a previously taboo subject being addressed.

Sarah Gebreille, a 19-year-old AUD student, said that while HIV and Aids were commonly associated with sexuality, "it isn't only that … but that's how people here think".

osalem@thenational.ae