x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

HIV rights law to be tabled by year end

A draft law to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against people with HIV/Aids is being sent to the Federal National Council.

Legislation being prepared to protect the rights of people living with HIV would help them lead normal lives, a senior health official said. A draft law to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against people with HIV/Aids is being sent to the Federal National Council for consideration before the end of the year, the National Aids Programme announced.

Dr Farida al Hosani, senior regional officer for public health and policies at Health Authority Abu Dhabi, said the laws would address the rights of the people living around carriers of the human immunodeficiency virus. "The laws will also tackle the rights and obligations of HIV carriers, in terms of their rights to live and seek medical treatment, and their obligations towards society and their families," she said. "It is important that we do not forget about the rights of those living around them and ensure that they remain healthy and aware of the situation."

The laws would help erase the social stigma surrounding HIV, she said. If society becomes aware that a person with HIV has the right to be treated like any normal individual, the silence and stigmas revolving around HIV will eventually stop. "Arab society connects HIV to sex between unmarried couples," she said, despite UN statistics in 2006 showing that 80 per cent of Arab women with HIV acquired it through their husbands.

"We try our best to help nationals with HIV to lead normal lives. We offer them free medical treatment, counselling and guidance. But there is no current law in the UAE that protects them from being discriminated against, especially by employers. So, if a person loses his job for having HIV, he cannot go to court and complain." The UAE has been criticised by UN officials and advocacy groups for policies about HIV/Aids which, it was claimed, violate human rights.

Most recently, the Government was criticised for not honouring its commitments to the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/Aids, because it did not submit data to the UN's 2008 Report on the Global Aids Epidemic. In July, the International Labour Organisation called on some Middle Eastern countries, including the UAE, to end discrimination against people with HIV. A draft law is being prepared in Qatar to protect the work rights of people with HIV, said Dr. Khaled Alloush, UN resident co-ordinator in the UAE.

hdajani@thenational.ae