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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

SCH: Qatar residents diagnosed with HIV increases to 10-year high

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Red ribbon for World Aids Day
Red ribbon for World Aids Day

The number of residents in Qatar being diagnosed with HIV appears to be on the increase, with the highest number of new cases in the last 10 years recorded in 2013, according to the Supreme Council of Health (SCH).

Last year, a total of 18 new patients were diagnosed with HIV, up from 15 cases in 2012 and 11 each in 2011 and 2010, The Peninsula quotes Dr. Hamad Eid Al Rumaihi, the SCH’s director of health protection and combating infectious disease, as saying.

Of the most recent diagnoses, 10 are Qatari and eight non-Qatari, while one case relates to a child under the age of 15.

It brings the total number of people diagnosed with HIV in Qatar to 113, which gives Qatar one of the world’s lowest rates of infections. However, the actual figure in Qatar may be higher, as the social stigma around the disease – as well as the fear of being deported among expats if they test positive – may discourage individuals from being tested.

Speaking at a conference over the weekend, Rumaihi attributed the rise in numbers to the increase in Qatar’s population, particularly of young, male workers who he said could be more susceptible to infection. Once in the country, most residents are not required to undergo repeated tests.

The number of newly-diagnosed cases over the last 10 years has been:

  • 2012 – 15 cases
  • 2011 – 11 cases
  • 2010 – 11 cases
  • 2009 – 5 cases
  • 2008 – 6 cases
  • 2007 – 9 cases
  • 2006 – 9 cases
  • 2005 – at least 14 cases
  • 2004 – 11 cases

Testing

Along with its GCC neighbors, Qatar has strict regulations regarding people with HIV and AIDS. Migrants planning to come to work in a Gulf country have to undergo blood screening for infectious diseases such as HIV and Tuberculosis.

Those testing positive are typically refused entry if it is part of the pre-screening process, and in the past have been sent home if they are already in the country.

Qatar also tests pregnant women, drug users when they come for consultation, couples who are planning to marry and students looking to study abroad. Health workers are checked annually.

Up to 18,000 blood donors are screened for HIV infection, and in total, there are around half-a-million HIV tests done for Qatar’s population of just over 2.2 million people, Al Rumaihi added.

However, these latest figures could show that some expats are allowed to remain in the country after testing positive and are being treated, perhaps signaling a change in attitudes.

“Anyone living here diagnosed with HIV infection is given the most advanced treatment available with the best drugs. We treat them equally, either a Qatari or an expatriate and respect the patient’s confidentiality,” The Peninsula quotes Dr. Mohamed bin Hamad Al Thani, Director of Public Health at the SCH.

World Aids Day poster
World Aids Day poster

Patients receive free treatment through Hamad Medical Corp‘s Qatar National Aids Program and new drug regimes can give patients 10 years.

This program has been underway for a number of years, however it showed a division in how people were treated.

In 2012, Dr. Abdullatif Al-Khal, who works at HMC’s Clinical AIDS Program, said that expats with HIV or AIDS who have a “stable” family life and employment are allowed to remain in Qatar. However, those expatriates who are in the country alone and are working low-wage, low-skill professions have a much more slim change of being allowed to stay.

This fear of deportation could prevent some individuals who know or suspect they are HIV-positive from seeking treatment and medical advice, increasing the risk of spreading the disease.

There is still an issue around social stigma and a lack of understanding on how HIV and AIDS are transmitted. In a bid to improve understanding, the SCH is embarking on an awareness-raising campaign among high school children through 2015.

Thoughts?

25 COMMENTS

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Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago

With respect to Dr Rumaihi, I disagree with his insinuation that it’s the laborers bringing HIV to Qatar. The article doesn’t break down the stats for past years, but if 2013 was a statistically typical year, Qataris are infected at a much higher proportion than the expat and laborer communities. 10 out of what, 300K vs 8 out of a little less than 2 million?

Also, young male workers are not generally most susceptible to any infection (HIV or otherwise), as this demographic is generally in good physical condition. Being overworked and malnourished and living in crowded, filthy conditions would certainly weaken anyone’s immune system though.

It sounds like this doctor is trying to put unnecessary spin on facts.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

10 out of 300 thousand compared to 8 out of 2 mil, but it is the expats fault, Dr Rumaihi failed math clearly. When will these people ever ever admit they are not without fault, the arrogance is simply stupidity.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

Or maybe he just doesn’t know what he’s talking about, like most doctors at HMC.

KingOfKings
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

Maybe they should educate their community about using protection because the local males in Qatar use protection as much as they use their car seat belts. They think it is less manly to be safe even when they hangout in the slums of Thailand, Egypt and Morroco.

And what stats is he talking about? Yeah right those with HIV will go get tested!..just like girls who get raped would never go and file claims so that they do not get deported.

What a mess….

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago

Hey Khalid, be careful on your trip to sth east asia, Dubai, Bahrain, the Sheraton Doha or the raddison Blu Orion Bar Doha. Wear protection if you like to ‘chat’ with the Chinese ‘tourists’ in the Qatari owned Sheraton and Radisson Blu!

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

Those “tourists” are usually serving “John”s and “Richard”s more than “Khalid”s. I even see them during the day with the “tourists” half their age.

Jr Derha
Jr Derha
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

Takes two 2 tango.. that is how markets thrive.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

It’s the Moroccan “tourists” that are more relevant to Khalid, methinks.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Them and other regional “tourists”.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

Ok, but why does it go unchecked in these establishments? Is it because of the wasta of the owner? Prostitution is allowed?

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

Unless they are caught in the act it is very hard to prove. Some of the wealthier Qataris are clients to Western “tourists”, they too come mainly to serve and leave. The really rich ones even have local “residents”. I personally prefer they turn a blind eye to it, there is so much worse things in the country that should take priority on any “clean up” operation. This presuming the tourists are here on their own free will.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

One would imagine that such tourists are already well aware of how to stay protected. Johns and Richards would be well aware of the need for protection. It is the culture of machismo that is the problem, alongside ignorance which contributes to spread of a virus which in other parts of the world is pretty much under control in terms of spread between consenting adults.

Michael L
Michael L
6 years ago

Raw figures make no sense it has to be reported per thousand of the population… The infection rate is either stable or declining based on these figures. Another non-story and another example of Doha News’ inability to correctly report statistics, really poor yet again.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael L

Agree I’m going to try to find the Arabic version which was published a few days ago and had a two page spread in the Arabic paper

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

Where is my post??

Coco
Coco
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Seems to happen lately…I’ve been “screened” a couple of times and I wasn’t taking shots at Qatar but at some DN articles…guess i just answered my own question 🙂

Restie
Restie
6 years ago
Reply to  Coco

I also made a lengthy post about statistics and it did not turn up. It said it was awaiting approval from Doha News.

I understand stats is a boring topics and my posts aren’t that popular but some prior warning would be nice haha!

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
6 years ago
Reply to  Restie

Hey guys, as we’ve said many times before, Disqus auto-filters out comments that are lengthy or have key flag words in them. Will check the pending folder now and release some of the remarks.

Coco
Coco
6 years ago
Reply to  ShabinaKhatri

Thanks, I’ll try to keep them short 😉 and I’ll set aside my tinfoil hat for now.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

My post was on hold for DN review. Guess using the words s!x education is a big no no. Better to let people die in ignorance…

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago

I’m having trouble reconciling statement 1 with statement 2

1 – “Anyone living here diagnosed with HIV infection is given the most advanced treatment available with the best drugs. We treat them equally, either a Qatari or an expatriate and respect the patient’s confidentiality,”

2 – … any Qatari or expatriate diagnosed with HIV infection is given specialised treatment at the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), except for people working in some sectors.

In other words, we’ll treat you equally, except that by equal we may not provide any treatment and instead simply deport you.

Scarletti
Scarletti
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

shameful discrimination if that is correct

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Scarletti

It’s how they roll..haven’t you seen the slaves on building sites, serving you food at the W, etc. etc…

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago

I agree that the data is very incomplete and that many different interpretations can be made. I had an issue with automatically pointing the finger at the person least capable of defending themself. It goes along with the problem of jailing the Nepali whos RP had expired but he had nothing to do with getting it renewed. If the target is easy, take your best shot. I know it’s a short quote, but to me his tone is indicative of larger attitude problems that exist in Qatar, namely: picking on the people who are already down and out. It wasn’t a statement about how they should be assisted, but more one of blame and chastisement. Perhaps I’m reading too far into it.

I also agree that HIV transmission is not related to physical condition. Generally when you hear of a virus spreading the calls are for those demographic groups that are most susceptible to exercise the most preventative measures. The doctor’s statement just points at young males (again, specifically the laborers), which is a demographic group not usually mentioned when discussing the spread of a virus. That’s what I was surprised to see and what I disagreed with. I’m not going to guess whether the poor living conditions of the laborers in Qatar compared to other residents, and how those differences would enhance or subdue the kinds of opportunities that promote the transmission methods required to spread HIV. That might spark an ugly side conversation. It just seemed like he took an unnecessary opportunity to single out the laborers. Maybe if I had the full context of his address it would change my mind…..

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago

Well put

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