of articles recently released by The National have challenged stigmas surrounding HIV in the UAE.
In January, an article
by Jennifer Bell in The National quoted doctors who said that current laws put them in an awkward position when treating HIV-positive patients. Because being found to be HIV-positive leads to deportation, expatriate patients fear getting regular sexual health checkups. Furthermore, doctors are put in a difficult position when testing for HIV because they may have to report to the local authorities. Such reporting may result in deportation to a place where treatment is unavailable or expensive and may not be in the best health interests of the patient.
In March, a special report by The National’s Shireena Al Nowais interviewed 34-year-old Nasser Al Mazouri, an Emirati man who has been held for more than a decade at a health facility, unable to leave without supervision. Despite posing virtually no risk to society, Al Mazouri has been unable to go to school or find a wife. When he attended his father's funeral, he did so in handcuffs.
Students at our university also experience restrictions: they are not exempt from the country's deportation policy of HIV-positive expatriates, and testing for HIV is not available at the health center; students are used to getting tested outside of the UAE, if they feel it is necessary.
Even for those that can get treatment in their home country, waiting two or three months for a diagnosis with diseases like HIV can be the difference between permanent immune system damage and living a life as long as a person without the disease. Furthermore, the longer HIV-positive people go without diagnosis and treatment, the more people they can unknowingly transmit the disease to.
The entry ban prevents HIV-positive NYU students from studying abroad in Abu Dhabi, HIV-positive professors from teaching at our university and ultimately prevents NYUAD from fulfilling its promise to be diverse, inclusive and the world’s best.
The ban might be more understandable if a policy barring HIV-positive people from a country could actually help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. However, recent studies
by the HIV Prevention Trials Network have shown that if a HIV-positive person is adhering to successful treatment, after a year of unprotected and protected sex, there is less than 4% chance of them passing on the disease to a negative partner. Sadly, however, doctors interviewed
by The National have indicated that people are afraid to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and therefore do not get treatment when necessary.
Deterrents from testing for sexually transmitted diseases are detrimental to our university's mission as well as to public health and thus cannot be ignored. However, until this mindset is changed, I think more needs to be done by our university to inform students and parents of the reality of sexual health regulations in the UAE.
Keeping it as a taboo topic is dangerous for the health of students.
Daniel Brown is a columnist. Email him at email@example.com.