Muscat, Oman: HIV management in Oman is expected to benefit greatly from a new set of guidelines that has been developed, based on some of the latest international practices, said an expert.
The new guide for healthcare workers, aimed at enhancing HIV management, launched on the occasion of World AIDS Day, which is observed under the theme, “HIV treatment for all” this year.
The launch will take place at an event, which will be held at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel under the auspices of Mohammed Al Hosni, undersecretary for Health Affairs at the Ministry of Health (MoH).
Great emphasis has been placed on ‘treatment for all’ in the new set of guidelines, said Dr. Mohamed Redha Moosa Al Lawati, head of the National TB, AIDS and Leprosy Control Programmes at MoH. In an exclusive interview with the Times of Oman, Al Lawati noted that the new guidelines have been developed, based on the latest research and developments in the field of HIV/AIDS, and updates an earlier version published in 2004.
“One of the major results of recent studies is that whoever is infected with HIV should receive treatment immediately after diagnosis, and this is what we are recommending under our new guidelines,” he stated.
Early diagnosis can result in timely treatment, prevention of complications and an improved prognosis for people infected with HIV, Al Lawati added.
He also highlighted the importance of “treatment as prevention,” which refers to HIV prevention methods that decrease the risk of HIV transmission.
In addition to early diagnosis and treatment, the new guide places emphasis on HIV in pregnant women and children, as well as vaccination in child patients, the expert noted.
“We have updated our treatment according to international practices and have introduced new medications, which are now available,” Al Lawati revealed.
According to the MoH, the main treatment for HIV, which is known as antiretroviral therapy, is widely available in Oman.
There are around 20 different medicines belonging to six classes of drugs. The treatment is available at 15 treatment centres all over Oman in different governorates, and there is a team of specialists available at each treatment centre.
Al Lawati explained that the new guidelines also focus on training and a workshop will be held early next year to introduce new strategies in this regard.
In addition, regional workshops will be held immediately after the launch of the new guidelines and will continue afterwards, he said.
Asked about the Ministry’s other activities to promote public awareness, the specialist noted that more responsibility has been given to regional centres to enable them to conduct awareness campaigns, training and treatment workshops, as well as screening.
“We are also concentrating on visiting colleges and universities to raise awareness among students and offering tests,” he stated.
In his message to the public on the occasion of World AIDS Day, Al Lawati advised people not to get involved in high-risk practices as the main mode of HIV transmission is sexual contact.
If they have been involved in any high-risk practices, they should get themselves tested, a facility that is available at all public health institutions and major private health institutions, he noted.
“People should educate themselves about HIV/AIDS through the many resources that are available,” he said, adding that an early diagnosis and timely treatment could help a person live a normal life. HIV infection can remain symptomless for many years so the main objective is to diagnose the patient before the symptoms appear, which is only possible through screening, he stated.
“There are HIV patients, who have full-time employment, have married, have children and their wife and children remain negative as they have taken necessary precautions to prevent the transmission of the infection,” added Al Lawati.
According to him, treatment can transform this disease from a killing condition to a chronic condition just like diabetes or hypertension.
Some studies have shown that the life expectancy of an HIV-infected patient, who receives proper treatment, is the same as or sometimes even better than that of a diabetic patient or even comparable to that of a normal person, he noted.
Commenting on the event, which will be held to announce the launch of the new guidelines, Al Lawati said 250 participants are expected to attend the event, including Dr. Abdallah Assaedi, representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Oman and HIV focal points in other governorates. Speeches will also be delivered by a number of officials, including Al Lawati; Dr. Seif Al Abri, director general of the Directorate General for Disease Surveillance and Control; Dr. Idris Al Abeidani, director of the Directorate General for Disease Surveillance and Control; and Dr. Ali Elgalib, HIV consultant.
According to the MoH, in addition to sexual contact, HIV can be transmitted in a number of other ways, including from an infected mother to child, sharing needles among injecting drug users and contaminated blood transfusion.
In Oman, all blood and blood products have been screened for HIV and hepatitis viruses since 1988. The Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme in Oman is the best in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Since its inception in July 2009, over 95 percent of pregnant women have been screened for HIV.
Pregnant women with HIV infection are provided with HIV treatment, together with other interventions, so transmission of infection to their babies is prevented.
Through this programme, Oman looks forward to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV infection.
© Times of Oman 2015Dec 2015