JEDDAH, Jan 9: Engaged Saudi couples who are about to marry will have to undergo extra premarital medical tests beginning this new Hijra year. AIDS and Hepatitis B and C will join the other mandatory medical tests that are already required in order to continue issuing marriage certificates.
“This is a decision that we have been working on and decided to implement starting this Hijra year 1429,” Dr. Ibrahim Al-Omar, director general of Labs and Blood Banks at the Ministry of Health, told Arab News.
Premarital medical tests were previously done to test genetic compatibility including blood genetic diseases that are spread in Saudi Arabia, such as thalassemia, due to consanguineous marriages that are common in Saudi society.
According to Al-Omar, the test will be available in health care centers that offer pre-marital medical tests starting first of Muharram. AIDS test was previously obligatory on foreign men who want to marry in Saudi Arabia.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80 percent of hepatitis patients do not take serious procedures to treat their disease until it becomes chronic, and 20 percent of them develop cirrhosis. Five percent of the 20 percent would have liver cancer in the following 10 years of their lives.
AIDS is transmitted by blood and sexual intercourse. Hepatitis is an infectious disease that is easier to contract than AIDS transmitted by blood and body fluids. Early diagnosis of the disease saves more than $5,000 spent on every patient, according to statistics mentioned at the 38th Annual Medical Conference for Abdominal System Diseases in Washington August 2007.
Hepatitis B is considered far more contagious and common than HIV (human immunodeficiency virus); both infections are incurable and fatal, though with proper treatment and lifestyle measures carriers of HIV or hepatitis viruses can keep the symptoms at bay and extend their lives considerably.
Testing for the infections is vital because the viruses remain dormant for years in carriers without showing any symptoms but place others a risk of infection.
Al-Omar told Al-Watan newspaper that the ministry’s medical labs and centers around the Kingdom conducted 731,473 premarital medical tests for men or women since it became mandatory in the Hijra year 1425 until 1427. Of whom, 678,166 were proved healthy.
As for blood disorders, people who have sickle cell trait are 4.26 percent while those affected with sickle cell anemia are 0.23 percent.
People with thalassemia trait are 2.63 percent while those affected with it are 0.076 percent.