A friendly voice over the phone informed this reporter that HIV testing was a very normal procedure in Dubai, with a simple blood test was all it took to determine your fate.
The questions were being posed to a staff member of one of the leading medical clinics in Dubai, which, among other lab work, specialises in STD testing.
However, as soon as this reporter quizzed about the standard procedure adopted if a person tested positive for HIV, the call was immediately transferred to another member of staff, who in a hushed tone, informed us that results would be strictly between doctor and patient for an extra fee. When probed further, the helpful staff member assured us that no information would be leaked out to any ‘official authority’ considering the testing was done on the premises itself and confidentiality would be adopted.
A few phone calls later, this reporter had been dished out a similar response at some of the city’s top medical clinics, with a secondary option of paying a higher fee to have the blood sample sent to the United Kingdom for testing.
In the second option, the results would be sealed and couriered to the clinic in Dubai, with a weeklong lag time as opposed to the two-day wait if tested locally, and handed over to the patient without being opened by the medical facility.
In a country where UAE is very specific on reporting on patients suffering from HIV or Aids, are clinics openly flagging the federal law?
When approached, a Ministry of Health spokesperson told 'Emirates24|7': “The Federal Law No 27 of 1981 concerning the prevention of communicable diseases where article three states on notifying the health administration/authority on the discovery of any of the notifiable diseases. This includes all population, both citizens and non-citizens. Once a suspected case is notified due to positive screening test, a confirmatory investigations is done and then each case will be managed accordingly.”
Speaking to a local doctor on the condition of anonymity, he said: “If clinics indeed are performing HIV tests on the sly and not informing authorities, as per the law, then such a act is despicable to say the least.
“Surely, they are palming extra money to keep mum about the results, if they indeed are positive.”
According to reports, expats who are diagnosed as HIV positive are deported from the UAE, while steps are being taken by the authorities to integrate citizens who test positive into the community.
Social worker, Ansitha Mayur said: “The growing concern is creating HIV awareness amongst the citizens. Many are unaware of it and its ramifications, while others are too concerned of the social stigma attached to it and are willing to pay the extra amount to ensure doctors stay mum about their results.”
According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Health, an accumulative total of 660 HIV cases among citizens had been reportedsince the beginning of HIV registering in the country in the 1980s till the end of 2010.
In 2010, there were 25 new HIV cases reported to the MOH in which 21 were males. z