I met with the Saudi Ambassador to Sweden at the Kuwaiti National Day Celebration in Stockholm and after finding common grounds with his music taste (Abdel Halim Hafez in particular) I moved on to talk about the AIDS situation in the Muslim World with emphasis on the Middle East and Gulf Region. He seemed unaware that the fastest growing region for AIDS/HIV was the Middle East. He seemed to believe that although cases had been found in Saudi Arabia it was by far "not as problematic" as the situation in "the west".
The first case of AIDS in Saudi Arabia was detected as early as 1984! (UNAIDS) That is 23 years ago. No data on HIV testing is available according to UNAIDS. Of course not, it is stigmatized, there is little awareness and a strong belief that it does not exist in the Holy Kingdom.
He told me there is no current health plan in Saudi Arabia to battle the AIDS epidemic that will no doubt hit it very hard in a decade or more (along with the rest of the Gulf Region and the Middle East). With the increased travelling, prostitution and sexual experimentation of a lot of the married and unmarried men (and to a lesser extent women) and youth of the region with new religious fatwas supporting their new found sexual freedom of zawaj friend (friendship marriage) allowing them to have a dame in every port, and the other zawaj orf (similar to zawaj friend). *
-What do we do about it Ambassador, I asked him.
-Well, I recommend you start with Dubai and Bahrain. They are very open and would perhaps welcome the discussion because they have a lot of tourists and expatriates, he replied.
Ok, but I was actually talking about Saudi Arabia?
*The fact that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) twice forbade mut'a (temporary marriage) until Judgement Day, seems to be of less significance to them.
**Picture courtesy of UNAIDS