LAU observes World AIDS Day
LAU marked the occasion with two Byblos-campus lectures to raise awareness about HIV in Lebanon, and an activity on the Beirut campus.
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AIDS and HIV in Lebanon were the subjects of two informational and awareness lectures held at LAU Byblos on December 1, in observance of World AIDS Day, and organized by the LAU School of Medicine, and the university’s Health Services and Guidance offices.
Lebanon is heading toward “concentrated” AIDS outbreaks among homosexuals and drug users who share needles if a trend of increased infections continues, said Dr. Jacques Mokhbat, chair of the Department of Medicine at the Lebanese University, who was one of two speakers. Dr. Mona Haidar, an LAU medical school faculty member, also gave a lecture entitled “HIV, Social Response and Human Rights Issues.”
AIDS “is not a low prevalence anymore,” said Mokhbat in his lecture entitled “HIV in Lebanon,” adding that the spread of the disease would be categorized as an epidemic if the figure of infected individuals climbs to 5 percent within those groups. “We are getting there,” he added.
Mokhbat identified a host of problems facing infected individuals in Lebanon, namely with the shortage of effective medical treatments, ignorant and unqualified medical workers, and a widespread stigma in Lebanese society which often leads to infected persons losing their jobs.
According to Mokhbat, there are about 500 known individuals living with HIV in the country, though he suspects the figure to be closer to 2,000.
During the second lecture, Dr. Haidar who specializes in social medicine, raised awareness about another side of the global HIV endemic — as a human rights issue. She linked the spread of the disease to issues of fear, stigma and discrimination, using the example of poverty-stricken countries where AIDS is prevalent, such as many African nations.
“AIDS is a disease of poverty and social injustice,” she said. “And to do something about AIDS, you have to do something about poverty and injustice.”
Haidar is an activist with Partners in Health, an organization treating HIV patients in the tiny African country of Lesotho.
She cited statistics revealing that globally one person dies every 16 seconds from HIV, while every 12 seconds, a new person contracts the disease.
Dr. Kamal Badr, founding dean of LAU’s medical school, emphasized the sense of urgency to mobilize efforts to support not just HIV patients, but individuals infected with other diseases such as tuberculosis.
“When you have activists going after people in power, you get something done,” he said.
In a separate event the following day to mark World AIDS Day, the Guidance Office-Beirut set up an eight-hole golf course on the Beirut campus, outside the Safadi Fine Arts Building. Some of the holes were constructed with a medical-themed design including a syringe and a feeding bag. In addition to the awareness-raising golf game, participants enjoyed live music and food.