Journalist fired and deported from Qatar for being HIV-positive

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.

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1 comment
  1. Bianca Rivera said:

    I agree that the stigma is an unfortunate problem that hinders their accessibility to bettering themselves. The amount of aid received is often dependent upon the statistics of how many people are infected, which hurts those who refuse to report their diagnosis. However, I think that certain travel provisions are actually helpful. Algeria does not restrict entrance to those that are HIV-positive, but they do test for HIV for returning nationals and army members. To me this is a policy in place in order to promote the right to well-being, one of the relations between human rights and health. Its as if Algeria is doing its part in ensuring that its citizens are aware of their health. Who knows, perhaps this is beneficial to those who are not yet aware that they are HIV-positive and it can help them become proactive in obtaining treatment as soon as they can.

    The US had an HIV-positive travel ban as well that lasted 22 years and ended officially in 2010 (http://www.aidsmap.com/US-HIV-travel-ban-has-now-ended/page/1437294/). I’m glad that the US has recognized that there are other ways of HIV prevention that does not include discriminating those who enter the country. President Obama was quoted in saying that “if the US intended on being the leader in the combat against HIV/AIDS, we would have to start acting like it” (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2009/10/obama-ends-travel-ban-on-foreigners-with-hivaids/). Shortly after the US lifted the ban, other countries like South Korea did as well. I hope that perhaps this movement toward lifting the ban will act as a domino effect and trigger the lifting of other travel restrictions that ban HIV-positive foreigners. It is necessary for the progress of the MDG Goal 6, which is working towards combating and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and other life-threatening diseases.

    What bothers me more than the travel ban is the method in which Qatar obtained their information. What right did Qatar have in testing him, especially without his consent?

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