I appropriately ran into this article after reading the Mann et al. paper on “Health and Human Rights,” which largely discusses discrimination against people with HIV and its direct infringement on the universal principles of human rights:
A South African journalist working for Al-Jazeera was recently dismissed from his job and then detained and deported from Qatar after he was found to be HIV-positive. The journalist is now attempting to take this case against Qatar to the International Labour Organization for violating international labor conventions. According to the 1958 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, which Qatar has signed, states must enact legislation that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, nationality, or religious or political beliefs. Although this declaration does not refer directly to HIV-status discrimination, it can be interpreted to include it. This claim is now being argued by human rights advocates from the South African human rights organization Section 27, who has lobbied to press charges against Qatar and countries with similar discriminatory policies.
Qatar is only one of about 20 countries which can legally deport HIV-positive foreigners, and one of 5 which can deny visas to people living with HIV. These countries often justify HIV travel and employment bans as public health and economic measures. Since many of these countries receive many migrant workers from countries with limited economic opportunities, they are not often challenged on the standard of labor and employee rights they provide.
As disturbing as this case is, it is also a great example of the power of international human rights advocates to fight against discriminatory laws in countries like Qatar. If the ILO were to accept this complaint, it could work to pressure the government to repeal such bans and set a precedent for similar cases of human rights and health violations in other regions.
This case also sheds light on the question of under-reported HIV cases in North Africa and the Middle East that was brought up in class. With laws in place that stigmatize and allow for the deportation of HIV-positive persons, it is not surprising that fewer infected people will effectively get tested or treated for HIV or other infectious diseases.
The full article can be accessed at: http://allafrica.com/stories/201202201619.html.