UAE: HIV treatment in prison negated to non-nationals

The United Arab Emirates tests prisoners for HIV but does not treat all of them: In at least one UAE prison, non-national prisoners are denied life-saving drugs. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports delayed, interrupted and sometimes denied treatment to non-nationals.

Multiple sources told HRW that non-nationals detainees in Al Awir Central Jail are not given the HIV treatment they need. Even if the detainees are tested regularly, only national prisoners receive their antiretroviral medicine. In at least four cases, prisoners did not receive any treatment for between three and five months. In curing HIV, continuity of treatment is vital, as the antiretroviral medicine can take positive effect only if administered regularly and associated with regular monitoring.

In one case, HRW reports that one detainee was not treated during his one year prison sentence in the UAE, where he was detained in isolation in both Al Awir Central Jail and in Al Sadr prison. According to this detainee, the guards were scared of and uneducated about HIV, leaing them to “[treat them] like wild and dangerous animals.” The isolation of these prisoners does not end there; it has been reported that prisoners with HIV do not have access to the library or other amenities and are segregated form the general prison population.

The UAE is not new to the violation of the right to health of prisoners and the denial of adequate medical care in prison, as is made abundantly clear by the case of Ahmed Mansoor. Despite this, the UAE is part of the UN and provides its HIV-positive citizens with free HIV medical care, which they claim is meant to extend to expatriates as well. Unfortunately, in practice these expatriates are often denied medical care, especially because the government does not grant visa work permits to people with certain comunicable disease, including HIV. This, along with the country’s continuing use of the kafala system, has led to some prisoners being denied vital medical care. This violation of the right to health regarding HIV treatment for non-national prisoners is taking place while Adu Dhabi prepares the upcoming forum for global health leaders.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) is deeply concerned by reports of the denial of medical treatment to detainees on the basis of their nationality, as well as reports about the mistreatment and isolation of prisoners on the basis of their health conditions. ECDHR calls on Emirati prison officials to provide antiretroviral treatment to all prisoners, irrespective of their nationality.

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