Qatar medical students campaign to break down barriers

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A group of medical students recently bid to break down barriers of fear and ignorance that risk hindering efforts to combat HIV and AIDS PHOTO COURTESY: QF

As Qatar Foundation (QF) believes in the power of discourse and open-mindedness, the ethos has helped medical students raise awareness about HIV and AIDS — a less spoken topic in many parts of the world, including the Middle East.

A group of medical students from Qatar recently bid to break down barriers of fear and ignorance that risk hindering efforts to combat HIV and AIDS, which are often seen as a taboo; a topic that simply shouldn’t be talked about.

SCORA (the Standing Committee of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights including HIV and AIDS) is one of the committees under the Qatar Medical Students’ Association, which include future physicians from universities across the country. One of its key aims is to raise awareness of and educate people about the realities of HIV and AIDS. Starting with World AIDS Day in December, the group launched a concerted effort to help strip away some of the stigma surrounding it.

A social media campaign focused on bringing HIV and AIDS information to the attention of the wider public, alongside poetry, photography, drawings, and perspectives related to the condition by students at Qatar

Foundation partner university Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q), Qatar University, and University of Calgary in Qatar.

 

The campaign concluded with a special event at WCM-Q where the students strengthen their own HIV and AIDS knowledge and training. They also heard stories of patients by video, who have battled both the condition and the public perception that increases it.

“Society tends to try to disregard the things it doesn’t particularly want to talk about,” qf.org.qa quoted Abdallah Tom, President of QMSA and a third-year medical student at WCM-Q, saying. “But not talking about something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

“What we are trying to achieve is to shed light on issues that we face, as a community – whether it’s sexual and reproductive health, or a mental health awareness campaign we are working on. These are topics that many within a community can choose to ignore, which in turn ends up stigmatising people who are suffering, propagating a cycle and making it much worse.”

 “Our aim is to help break that cycle – removing the stigma by normalising people talking about these topics,” he said.  The QF event also heard from Dr Sara Salameh of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) about the importance of building a trust-based rapport with HIV/AIDS patients, helping them to accept their diagnosis and recognise the effectiveness of the treatments that are now available, and to be prepared to confide in others about their condition.

 “Stigma comes from a lack of knowledge, and education about HIV/AIDS is the priority,” she told the students. “What you are doing is really important, and I hope that its next step will be to reach a wider audience,” she added.

Source: www.thepeninsulaqatar.com

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