Almost all UAE Aids patients still unemployed

Last census puts total figure at 598 - 149 females and 449 males

Despite the approval of the law which gives HIV/Aids patients equal rights of employment in the UAE, almost all the patients in the UAE are still unemployed. This is mainly due to the stigma around them which stops employers from hiring them.

According to 2008 statistics of the National HIV/Aids Programme, the total number of HIV/Aids cases living in the UAE reached 598. Of these, 149 were females and 449 were males.

Ali, a 34-year-old UAE national who got the disease seven years ago, said that he has been unemployed since 2007.

"I was working for a government department. Due to some problems with work, I had to leave my job. Then I got the disease, and ever since, I have tried to work and knocked many doors, but got no help. Once they discover that I am sick from the fitness test report, they refuse to hire me."

Ali, a father of six children said that he receives a social help of Dh12,000 monthly from the government.

"This amount is not enough for my family's requirements. It hardly covers our basic needs."

He pointed out that he does not want to live on charity. "I just want to earn my living. I am young, and capable of working hard and earning my living."

Dr Abdullah Ustadi, Head of Contagious Disease Section at Rashid Hospital in Dubai and a member of the UAE's National HIV/Aids Programme says these patients are normal people as long as they take their medicines. They are equally productive and hard working if compared to other employees.

"These are young UAE nationals aged between 20 to 40 years. There is nothing wrong with them. They have the full right of employment and living.

There is a law which was approved and which gives them the fair chance of living with dignity and to earn for their living. However, the law is being ignored by employers."

Part of being hired in any job is to pass the fitness test. However, when the employers find out from the fitness test that these applicants have HIV/Aids, they refuse to hire them.

"This is a sad situation, and must change. There is nothing that can prevent HIV/Aids patients from working as long as they take their medications. This disease does not mean an end to their lives or leave them to live on charity or social security help."

According to the statistics of the UAE's National HIV/Aids Programme, the reported HIV/Aids mode of transmission among UAE nationals in 2008 were as follows:
IV drugs: 4%

Mother to child: 9%

Husband/wife/husband: 9%

Homosexuals: 17%

Others: 57% - These are cases where it was not determined what caused the infection.

Blood transfusion: 4% - donated blood is screened for HIV in the UAE since 1987. The cases has either received blood outside the UAE or claimed to have received blood.


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