x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Rise in HIV rate draws cautious response from health officials

The number of HIV cases in the first three months of 2011 in Dubai was nearly half the number of cases for all of 2010.

DUBAI //HIV infection rates among expatriates seeking new or renewed visas appeared to rise sharply in the first three months of this year with 88 cases recorded, almost half the total for the previous year, according to the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

However, health officials cautioned against reading too much into the figures.

A total of 183 people - 46 women and 137 men - tested positive for HIV last year, an average of about 15 each month. That compares with an average of more than 29 for the first three months of this year.

The DHA compiles monthly statistics, but also issues a tally at the end of each quarter. In March this year, 28 people tested positive for HIV.

Tuberculosis infection rates also appeared to be on the rise.

Health officials would not say the HIV rate was increasing among expatriates, explaining that it depended on the population and the number of expatriates who came into the country every year. The number of expatriates recorded with HIV during the first three months of last year was not immediately available.

"We cannot say if the numbers have increased because it depends on the group of people that come here for business, so it is not a relevant comparison," Maisa al Bustani, director of the medical fitness services department at the DHA, said.

Thirty-five people tested positive for HIV in January this year and 25 in February.

"We have two groups that visit our centres, those for renewal of visas and the other for new visas," Mrs al Bustani said. "We also consider people changing their sponsor, leaving the country and coming back as new visa applicants, and we have to test them."

Expatriates who tested positive for HIV were automatically deported.

Visa applicants are also tested for tuberculosis (TB), which had a relatively high incidence with 252 cases in March, 162 cases in February and 192 in January this year. Last year, a total of 722 individuals were found to have TB, compared with 606 cases for the first three months of this year.

"When we speak about tuberculosis, we have to distinguish between an old case of TB or an active TB," Mrs al Bustani said. "Based on investigations, if we detect an old TB, the individual will not be isolated, but they will be deported."

In cases of active TB, the infected person cannot travel by air and requires treatment before being deported. The time required for treatment depends on the patient's condition, Mrs al Bustani said. "For open TB, it is our responsibility to trace the cross-contact, the people with whom the individual has had close contact, so as to ensure that the disease has not been transmitted."

Last year 563 men and 159 women were found to have TB.