Thursday, August 11, 2005

Saudis Jailing HIV Foreigners

This report is disturbing and alarming.

By Jan Prout Toronto Bureau

(Toronto, Ontario) Saudi Arabia reportedly refuses to provide antiretroviral treatment to HIV-positive foreigners and instead confine them to caged hospital rooms until they are deported or die.

The Globe & Mail newspaper reports that the Saudi Ministry of Health has a policy of treating HIV-positive foreigners with only minimal care until they are stable enough for deportation.

The paper quotes a 2004 Saudi government report that says HIV/AIDS is an "imported phenomenon".

Often foreigners in the Arab kingdom do not know they have HIV until they are rushed to hospital after a car or industrial accident. Under Saudi law any foreigner admitted to hospital must undergo HIV testing.

One Saudi doctor speaking to the Globe on the condition of anonymity said HIV-positive foreigners are treated like "prisoners, not patients." He added that the patients "get no medicine, no care, nothing" and many die while awaiting deportation.

The length of time they remain confined at the hospital depends on their nationality the paper reports. Most western countries are quick to return their nationals home. But, those who come from countries "with little or no diplomatic presence in Saudi Arabia" have to wait much longer.

Foreigners make up 25% of Saudi Arabia's population and 54% of the country's HIV-positive population, according to the Globe and Mail.

The paper notes that while foreigners are denied HIV care, the government provides antiretroviral drugs free of charge to HIV-positive Saudis.

© 2005


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