Saudis Report Jump in Aids Cases
By Paul Wood, BBC
correspondent in Cairo
The ministry of
health in Saudi Arabia has announced that the kingdom has registered more than
6,700 cases of Aids. Of these, it says just 1,509 are Saudi nationals.
The first Aids
case was reported in Saudi Arabia in 1984. The UN says that by the year 2000,
the cumulative total was 436.
Last year, another
200 cases were registered.
Today, the Saudi
health authorities say there are 6,787 cases, albeit most of them among
But still, why the
sudden addition of several thousand cases? The exponential leap may reflect
better reporting of Aids rather than a dramatic change in the rate of
After all, making
the announcement, the head of Saudi Arabia’s Epidemic and Parasitic Diseases
Authority said 95% of the kingdom’s Aids cases were spread by what he called
“forbidden sexual relations”.
adultery and homosexuality are all strictly prohibited under the sharia law
practised in Saudi Arabia.
include jail, flogging and stoning.
So there is not
overwhelming public or official sympathy for Aids sufferers in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this year,
the Saudi authorities had to investigate claims that a hospital dumped a
terminally-ill Aids patient on the streets, barely conscious.
A Saudi newspaper,
the Arab News, said the man was picked up by the hospital security staff and
left on the pavement outside his employer’s offices.
Saudi Arabia is
also in the throes of a debate about introducing greater democracy and more
What appears to be the more honest reporting of Aids
cases may be one more sign of change stirring within the kingdom.
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